A MAJOR operation has swung into action to help the 1700 workers facing redundancy at Hall’s of Broxburn following confirmation of the closure of the meat processing plant.
A phased shutdown of the West Lothian factory will begin later this month and the last employees are expected to leave in February.
The taskforce originally set up to try to save the plant has now switched its focus to helping the workforce prepare for life after Hall’s.
A jobs fair next month is expected to see around 20 firms from butchers to office managers discussing possible opportunities for Hall’s staff.
Two centres have been set up in Broxburn – one inside the plant, the other at Strathbrock community centre – to offer advice and assistance to workers and their families.
West Lothian Council leader John McGinty said the immediate priority was to provide practical help and support.
He said: “People can drop in or book an appointment and come in for advice on a wide range of issues, from benefits to setting up their CVs, money advice, interview techniques and job search.
“We want to get as many people back into the workforce as quickly as we can.”
The council has been given the lead role in the taskforce’s recovery action group. Cllr McGinty said reskilling the workforce would be an important priority.
He said they would also be looking at what support could be provided for local businesses. “A closure of this scale will mean a significant amount of money being drained out of the local economy.”
And, in the longer term, he said they would have to look for inward investment. “Currently West Lothian’s unemployment figures are below the national average, but when the impact of the closure kicks in that will change.”
Finance Secretary John Swinney has outlined a “recovery plan” aimed at helping the workers find new jobs, but also supporting the wider West Lothian economy.
It includes a “skills matching” service to match Hall’s staff to other companies who may be recruiting; active pursuit by Scottish Development International of potential inward investment opportunities; support for local business start-ups; and exploring options to invest in infrastructure improvements to develop areas of West Lothian particularly affected by the plant closure. A team from PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) – run by Skills Development Scotland – has already begun work at the factory, working with the council and others to offer advice and support to the workers.
PACE chair Donald Lumsden said: “It is a very stressful time for individuals and their families.
“We like to work with people before they leave. That enables us to help them prepare for what lies beyond. There’s a lot we can do in providing one-to-one advice.”