MORE than 200 jobs are set to go at a major chicken processing plant in Perth and Kinross in a hammer blow for the local economy.
Food giant the 2 Sisters Food Group has announced plans for redundancies at its Coupar Angus site with up to a third of the jobs of the 658 strong workforce under threat.
The group only took over the Coupar Angus plant from the troubled Vion company in March this year.
Councillor Ian Miller, the leader of Perth and Kinross Council who represents the Strathmore ward where the 2 Sisters factory is located, said: “This is very worrying news for 2 Sisters employees and their families, and it is especially hard to take at this time of year.”
He pledged: “The council will assist the company in whatever we can, in an effort to minimise any job losses and ensure that the company has a long-term future in Coupar Angus. The employment provided by the plant is vital to the economy of rural Perthshire.”
John Swinney, the Scottish Finance Secretary and the MSP for Perthshire North, said : “This is a very serious blow to employment in Coupar Angus, with the prospect of job losses at the 2 Sisters plant and the workforce are very much in my thoughts at this difficult time”
He continued: “The fact that this comes so soon after the acquisition of the plant by 2 Sisters is a real concern. I have discussed the situation already with the management of the company and they have explained that a decline in market conditions has resulted in there being too much capacity within chicken plants. Unfortunately, that has resulted in jobs losses at Coupar Angus.
“I will be meeting with management and unions at the plant today to see what can be done to mitigate these job losses. And I will be ensuring that all support that can be available from the Scottish Government is available to any individuals affected by the announcement.”
Mr Swinney added: “In similar situations the Government’s PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) initiative has successfully found employment for people who have lost their jobs and I assure the workforce at Coupar Angus that these services will be available to them.”
Pete Wishart, the SNP MP for Perth and North Perthshire, also voiced his concern about the threatened redundancies. He said: ”This is very disappointing news indeed, particularly for those employees who are losing their jobs. I feel very sorry for them and their families.
“There is never a good time to lose your job, but it is especially hard to get news like this in the run up to Christmas.“
He continued: “2 Sisters said when they took over the operation in the summer that it could take them two years to complete the financial turnaround of the former Vion business. These job losses are a very bitter pill to swallow and I will be hoping for clarification from 2 Sisters as to whether this represents the bottom of the curve or if they anticipate further reductions in the future.”
The company has begun a 45 day consultation and expects the jobs cut to take effect in the New Year.
A spokesman for 2 Sisters Food Group said: “Today we are setting out a rescue plan for Scotland that will help secure the viability of the poultry industry and give us a better opportunity for future growth and success. Taking no action would put the future of our industry in Scotland at serious risk.
“There is an oversupply of poultry in Scotland, which has historically been the least efficient manufacturing base. There is also evidence of a decline in the UK poultry market due to changes in consumer demand. This situation is unsustainable.”
He continued: “At Letham, we have worked hard to secure a future for the site, and we’ve found a buyer who will tap into new niche market opportunities, where it will much more competitive in the market place.
“In turn, we are working with our colleagues to maintain a viable operation at our factory in Coupar Angus, which will allow us time to create a more competitive environment as we look to strengthen Scottish sales and build demand for Scottish chicken.
“This will mean we are proposing to reduce the workforce at Coupar and change shift patterns and working hours for remaining colleagues. We will work with all our partners – our colleagues, our customers, our agricultural base, the Scottish Government – as we can’t do this alone.”
The spokesman added: “We need their help to rescue this industry. These announcements today will help secure our business for the longer term and put us in a stronger position for investing in the future when conditions are right.”