Industry giant Premier Foods has been urged to "show some loyalty" to workers after unveiling plans for 900 job cuts at two factories where the iconic Hovis loaf is baked.
Bakeries in west London and Birmingham will close down. The bulk of redundancies will be at the Midlands site, with 200 spcialist jobs lost in Greenford, west London, plus distribution centre in Plymouth and Mendlesham, Suffolk. Positions will be deleted during 2013, said the company.
It blamed the redundancies on the end of a supply contract with a supermarket. Loaves of Hovis bread will continue to appear on shelves.
Steve Pound, the Labour MP whose constituency includes the London bakery, called the announcement "a bolt from the blue".
The Ealing North MP told IBTimes UK: "The workforce has been very loyal to Premier Foods and it's about time for it to show some loyalty back. Are they really saying there are not some positions available for decent, hard-working employees?
"What is most harsh about this, apart from that it's the worst Christmas present you can have, is that people do not know when it will take place."
A Premier Foods spokesman indicated to IBTimes that positions elsewhere in the company will be available to redundant staff. But accepting a new role could involve huge upheaval for families.
IBTimes UK understands that a manager at the factory is former parliamentary hopeful Roger Curtis, who unsuccessfully stood against Pound for the seat at the 2005 general election.
Pound continued: "It's right at the heart of the community. Premier Foods has always been a good employer, so it will be very hard to replace and I'm hoping that there will be some move to work with the workforce.
"Two hundred job losses will mean around 1,000 people are going to be affected by this. It will not be easy to take the blow. We do have low unemployment in the area, but this was a very special employer and it will be hard for people to move from one job and retrain for another."
The Unite union called for urgent talks. Food and drink officer Jennie Formby said: "This is just another stage in the disaster story that has been Premier Foods over recent years, which has consistently struggled ever since its decision to buy Hovis in 2006.
"At the time, this strategy was described as doomed by some analysts and has resulted in the company being saddled with massive debts.
"Management claims the job losses are as a result of competition and wheat prices, but the reality is that our members are continuing to pay the heavy price of Premier's failure to make a success of the business and we remain extremely concerned about the future of the remaining business."
Premier Foods CEO Michael Clarke said: "We recognise the impact these actions will have for our employees at the sites affected. Decisions will not be taken lightly but they are necessary if we are to build a strong and successful future for the bread division and those who remain with our business."