ONE of Scotland’s best-known food firms appears doomed to closure with the loss of 1,700 jobs, in the biggest single blow to the country’s workforce in more than a decade.
Months of negotiations between the Dutch owners of the loss-making Hall’s of Broxburn meat plant in West Lothian and a Scottish Government-led task-force ended in failure yesterday, as the firm earmarked a closure date of February.
Vion, the Eindhoven-based firm which owns Hall’s, said unless a buyer is found next week a “phased shutdown” will get under way before the end of the month. But politicians accused Vion of rejecting viable options, putting its “self-interest ahead of the workforce” and being “intent on closing the plant no matter what”.
Workers spoke of their dismay at the decision yesterday, but Vion revealed it was losing about £79,000 a day when it first unveiled plans to close the plant in July and said yesterday the situation was “unsustainable”.
The Scottish Government had offered to buy the plant and lease it back to Vion, as well as offering additional training cash, marketing support and
In a letter to workers yesterday, management said a phased shutdown would start later this month if a new buyer could not be found. The closure will also be a major blow for Scotland’s farming industry, with 8,000 pigs a week currently being processed at the plant, which makes sausages, black pudding and haggis. It is the biggest pig processor in Scotland.
Finance secretary John Swinney said the Scottish Government and its agencies have done all they can to secure the future of the plant through a “task-force”, and are still working to save it from the axe.
“All possible support will be made available to staff. Teams have already been on site and resources are in place to help people who are looking at their options for the future,” he said. “We will also work to address the serious potential impact on the local area.”
The announcement yesterday came after a 90-day consultation on the proposed closure ended earlier this week.
The loss of Hall’s will be the biggest single jobs blow in Scotland since mobile phone giant Motorola shed 3,100 jobs at its Bathgate plant in 2001.
Vion UK chairman Peter Barr said: “We have done everything in our power to avoid having to take this extremely regrettable action, but we have been unable to identify any viable alternative to the closure of the plant.
“Unfortunately, the unsustainable losses which the plant continues to suffer, combined with the challenging economic conditions across all food sectors, have left us with no alternative.”
The plant was bought by Vion Food Group four years ago from Grampian Country Food Group, which had been in financial difficulties for several years. It employs 1,150 permanent and
595 agency staff at the site.
Scottish Government culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, the local MSP for Broxburn, said: “This is a dark day for Broxburn. Frankly, Vion have a lot to answer for.
“They have a loyal, skilled and
experienced workforce here which they have abandoned, and they have knocked back every effort that has been made by the Scottish Government and others to find a solution. This did not have to happen.”