Hope fades over factory closure

TALKS between bosses and unions over the future of a Suffolk pork factory have proved fruitless - but some jobs could be saved with a move to a nearby plant.

TALKS between bosses and unions over the future of a Suffolk pork factory have proved fruitless - but some jobs could be saved with a move to a nearby plant.

Grampian Foods in Elmswell, near Bury St Edmunds, announced the closure of the factory in March.

The plant is set for closure on June 14, but factory bosses had agreed to talk with representatives of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) to look at options for the 400 strong work force.

However, despite meetings with Grampian directors and managers no way of keeping the plant in Elmswell open could be agreed upon.

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Many staff will be retrained on the Grampian site at Elmswell for work elsewhere but some will find new roles at the firm's factory in Haverhill.

However, Grampian chiefs were last night unable to confirm how many had made the switch to their Haverhill site.

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Christine Henry area organiser for USDAW said: “Despite our best efforts the company still feels their closure programme is the best course of action.

“I'm very disappointed we've gone through six weeks of absolute hell and the people on site are despondent.

“The workers in Elmswell have been going through a whole range of emotions from upset to angry.

“Most people are in touch with the job centre and some people are in touch with the union representative about retraining.

“Some have found jobs in the local area and some have found work at the Grampian site in Haverhill.”

Lynn Jones, USDAW project coordinator for life long learning in Norfolk and Suffolk, said: “We have not started retraining yet we are conducting a survey of the workforce to see what they want to be taught before arranging the courses.

“It has given them some hope if they can get some qualifications under their belt.

“Grampian have been very supportive to the staff and to us - we hope to have courses in the factory and we hope workers can have paid leave to do these courses.”

Alisdair Cox, corporate communications director at Grampian, said: “We are still working towards ceasing operations at the site on June 14.

“Some of the employees have already been released to take up offers of employment from other business in the area - about 10% of the workforce or 30 to 35 people.

“For the remaining staff on site everyday activities are on going but we will be running retraining courses on site as well.

“Offers of support from local business have been made where opportunities are available.”

Unions had argued that the Suffolk pork was better quality and contained less preservatives than cheaper imported pork from the continent.

It was felt the more locally reared animals caused less damage to the environment than foreign meats because they had to be transported shorter distances.

However, bosses blamed rising costs and “overcapacity” on the “deeply regrettable” decision to close the factory. In total 380 staff have been laid off at the factory.

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