200 jobs at risk as dairy firm announces plans to close plant at Hatfield Peverel

Arla Foods' stay fresh milk.

Arla Foods' stay fresh milk.

Around 200 jobs are at risk in Essex after farmer-owned dairy company Arla announced plans to close its fresh milk processing plant at Hatfield Peverel.

Inside the bottling area at PurFiltre at Arla Foods plc, Hatfield Peverel.

Inside the bottling area at PurFiltre at Arla Foods plc, Hatfield Peverel.

Arla Foods said that after an extensive review into its processing requirements across the UK that it plans to close the plant by the end of July 2016, subject to consultation with those affected. If the proposals go ahead, up to 200 jobs will be lost or relocated, it said, while 32 drivers and logistical workers will transfer to another company.

The company’s Aylesbury site, which now has the ability to process one billion litres a year after a significant ramp up operation since it opened in 2014, will take on the majority of Hatfield Peverel’s processing, and smaller volumes of milk will be delivered to other Arla fresh milk dairies dependent on customer requirements.

Union Unite, which represents 137 members at the site, expressed its concern at the plans and said it would be seeking a “full explanation” of the proposed move.

Unite regional officer Mark Barter said: “This is very bad news for the workforce and their families – it leaves a sour taste in the mouth. There is not much similar employment in the area and the commute to Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire would be far too much on a daily basis.

The filling hall at the Arla Dairy, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, which cost �150million and was of

The filling hall at the Arla Dairy, in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, which cost �150million and was officially opened in 2014. - Credit: PA

“The first opportunity to meet management will probably be this Friday when we will be asking for the reasons why this plant has had to close – we will require a full explantion.

“We will want to investigate every opportunity to save these milk production jobs.”

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The proposed change, announced today, follows Arla’s £150million investment in a state-of-the-art fresh milk facility at Aylesbury. The plant is the world’s largest dairy operation of its kind and was built to support Arla’s long-term strategy to increase the volume of milk being processed in the UK and support Arla’s significant growth plans for its largest market, it said.

As a result of the proposed closure and following a full review of the outbound logistics operations currently run from Hatfield Peverel, Arla is also recommending an improved model that would outsource this operation to Bidvest Logistics, a distribution and supply chain services company.

Unite expressed concern at the proposal to transfer a further 32 logistical/driving staff to Bidvest Logistics, and said it would seeking to ensure that there is no erosion of pay and conditions, if they were transferred to the new employer under a TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) deal.

Dan Kolding, senior vice president, supply chain, Arla Foods UK said: “As a farmer-owned dairy company, our mission is to return the highest value for our farmers’ milk, creating opportunities for growth. The development of Aylesbury is helping us to deliver this vision in the UK, as the dairy approaches capacity.

“We are entering into full consultation with all colleagues affected by both proposals, and their trade union representatives. We are committed to supporting affected colleagues at this difficult time and will do everything we can to support them in their search for suitable alternative employment, either within Arla or elsewhere.”

Arla Foods is a global dairy company and co-operative owned by 12,700 dairy farmers, around 3,000 of whom are British.?