Birmingham City Council are investigating a series of complaints from traders on the Wholesale Market.
Ten traders have formed their own breakaway federation to try to argue for better terms when the market moves to Witton this month.
The traders have called themselves the BME Birmingham Wholesale Traders Federation, with the initials standing for ‘Black, minority and ethnic’, and say “80 to 100 jobs could be lost” if they were all to go bankrupt.
Their grievances include:
+ Not being given enough notice about the move
+ Not being eligible for a contribution towards the move if they hadn’t signed a lease agreement in time, and
+ Being grouped together ‘in one corner’ of the new linear market
Three of the traders have emailed Birmingham City Council, a spokesman said: “A small number of traders have raised some concerns which the city council is currently investigating.”
Jointly signed by Ahmed Patel (Fine Fresh Produce Ltd), Jawad Imdad (M&I Fruit and Veg Ltd) and Sunny Exotics’ employee Irfan Ahmed, the BME press release said: “The council has provided inadequate funding and contributions to all our members to allow them to fit out their units in the new market, whilst giving other firms preferential treatment by providing them with extremely generous contributions.”
They added: “Our members could be set to incur losses of millions of pounds, forcing them to either lay off employees and many companies are also facing the dire prospect of bankruptcy. Both would result in loss of jobs and shows a negative effect of relocating the market.
“We are small BME businesses who are the life and soul of the market and local business community.
“We have a long and proud history of serving the people of Birmingham and the surrounding areas. Closure of these businesses will have a knock-on effect on many retailers across the West Midlands and nationally.
“These concerns have been brought to the attention of BCC, but they have failed to offer a solution or any assistance.”
One of the traders Mr Patel from Fine Fresh Produce Ltd said that because he had been in dispute with the council about the location of his new unit, he had not signed a lease in time to qualify for his own £37,000 worth of relocation assistance.
“We were only told on April 24 that the new market was opening on May 8. It’s not enough time – the lack of funding delayed the (new) fit-out many times,” said Mr Patel.
“Being told that our last day of trading (on Pershore Street) would be May 5 was a bombshell.
“The council did not consult with us individually.
“The big traders are in the middle (of the new site).
“Many Asian traders have been put in a block in one corner but they should have been allocated through a lottery,” he said.
Mr Patel, aged 37, said the traders had launched their federation three weeks ago as they did not feel the Birmingham Wholesale Fresh Produce Association represented them.
Despite his grievances with the council and “admitting defeat” about which new unit he could have, Mr Patel said he would have preferred the new site to have been run wholly by the council.
Mr Patel added: “The new place is smaller and so should be easier for the council to manage on its own.
“We want to move. We are paying tenants.
“But we can’t store anything as we sell perishable foods and have to sell it.
“The cost of fitting out the new units in some cases is more than £100,000 and we don’t have that money unless we borrow it from the bank.
“I have sent email after email, but the council has taken so long to sort everything out.”
The market will be a place for wholesale customers to buy and take produce away from between 3.30am till 11.30am every weekday and from 3.30am to 9.30pm on Saturdays.