Factory closure crisis talks falter

HUNDREDS of staff at one of the county's biggest employers have been told to prepare for mass redundancy after crisis talks to save an ailing Suffolk plant floundered.

HUNDREDS of staff at one of the county's biggest employers have been told to prepare for mass redundancy after crisis talks to save an ailing Suffolk plant floundered.

Union chiefs said they were now resigned to the closure of Grampian Country Pork's factory in Elmswell amid spiralling debts.

Crunch talks between officials and company bosses yesterday failed to find an alternative to closure, which is expected to cause a massive dent in the local economy.

The plant's 380 workers will now be given urgent job training and advice in a bid to recruit them elsewhere after their trade union said the only hope was to find a white knight in the shape of another business buying the factory.

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Christine Henry, area organiser for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), told the EADT: “It is a very disappointing and sad day. Some of our proposals were clutching at straws but nevertheless we were hopeful some of the business could be retained on site.

“We asked if anyone was interested in buying the site but this doesn't look likely as there are just too many people in the industry all doing the same thing.

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“We have always been hoping that someone might buy the site but in terms of Grampian, we appear to have exhausted all avenues and we are resigned to the fact that it will close on June 14.”

Grampian bosses yesterday rejected last ditch proposals to change working practices at the 42-acre site in a desperate bid to keep the plant open.

Now union chiefs will turn their attentions to the workforce - offering them meetings with local job centres and skills providers in a bid to boost staff credentials when applying for new jobs.

Mrs Henry said: “Morale at the site is very low but we will be doing our utmost in the coming weeks to get them some relevant and meaningful advice and training.

“We put a set of detailed proposals to Grampian but unfortunately they were not able to undertake them due to financial reasons.

“They said they were able to make certain products from sites elsewhere without being detrimental to business.

“We are now into the nitty-gritty negotiations over redundancy packages and re-training employees.

“We have staff who have been here for a long time and all they know is production and food manufacturing.”

Grampian bosses made the announcement earlier this month citing increasing production costs - but moved swiftly to reassure hundreds of workers at its Haverhill plant that their jobs were secure.

Alasdair Cox , corporate communications controller at Grampian, declined to comment on the finances, but said: “The meeting was very constructive and we seem to be moving in the right direction.

“We are currently looking at alternatives and the consultation process will continue with both staff and unions, who we hope to meet with next week.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Henry said she was keen to hear from anyone who could help retrain or give job advice to the workers - many of whom are Polish or Portuguese - to get in touch with the factory on 01359 240521.

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