470 Suffolk jobs axed

NEARLY 500 jobs will be lost in Haverhill following the decision by leading food firm Vion Food Group Ltd to restructure its abattoir and sliced cooked meats operations.

Kate McNally

NEARLY 500 jobs will be lost in Haverhill following the decision by leading food firm Vion Food Group Ltd to restructure its abattoir and sliced cooked meats operations.

Dutch-owned Vion took over the Haverhill site, which currently employs around 800 people, when it acquired Grampian Foods last summer.

The company plans to close its abattoir, butchery and parts of its retail operations at Haverhill and transfer them to its site in Malton, north Yorkshire. At the same time, all cooked meat production will move from Malton to Haverhill.


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It is expected 470 jobs will go at Haverhill and around 200 jobs at Malton as part of the restructure.

Vion said it had been conducting an extensive review of its operations in the UK, against a backdrop of a very competitive marketplace and over-capacity within the UK meat sector.

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The company said it planned to focus resources to create “centres of excellence” which will be better placed to meet the demands from the market and optimise production efficiencies. It said it saw a “real opportunity for growth” when it bought Grampian Foods last year and added that the changes would put the business “on a stronger footing for growth as we move forward”.

Management has entered into 90-day consultation period with staff. It has also approached the East of England Development Agency to establish what support and assistance can be provided to safeguard jobs, but was unable at this stage to clarify what it thought EEDA could do to help.

Vion employs around 14,500 workers in the UK, including 430 in Eye and 450 in Witham. The group confirmed these sites were unaffected by the planned changes to the UK business.

Alasdair Cox, director of corporate affairs, said: “Due to increasingly competitive pressures from the marketplace, we must continually look to optimise our production facilities to ensure sound foundations for the development of our UK business. In creating dedicated facilities at Malton and Haverhill, we will also be investing in both plants to build the business.

“We regret the need for these changes in our activities and have informed our employees and their union representatives of our commitment to consult with them. The commitment from the teams at Haverhill and Malton has never been in question.

“The company will be consulting with the affected people and their nominated representatives to explore ways of avoiding redundancies, including transfers both within the site operations and to other businesses within the company.”

Vion said it felt it was a “responsible approach” to work with EEDA to try to mitigate job losses.

Richard Ellis, chairman of EEDA, said: “The pig industry is an important part of the East of England economy with many jobs reliant on the Haverhill plant as part of the supply chain.

“The EEDA will be working with Suffolk County Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council to maintain the processing plant in Haverhill and safeguard the majority of jobs dependent on it.”

A further 150 jobs are under threat at Vion's operation in Cambuslang in Scotland following the loss of business supplying food products to supermarket giant Marks & Spencer.

A spokesman for Unite said: “This is very concerning as these job cuts show how vulnerable the supply chain companies in the food industry are to the demands of their clients, usually the big supermarkets.

“Unite is seeking urgent talks with the Vion Group. Our priority is to resist compulsory redundancies and safeguard jobs.”

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