The threat to up to 155 jobs at Norfolk turkey producers Bernard Matthews was described as ‘deeply disappointing’ by Unite, the country’s largest union.
Last September, the private office of Ranjit Singh Boparan, purchased the company whose headquarters are at Great Witchingham, Norfolk. Ranjit Singh Boparan is the founder and owner of 2 Sisters Food Group.
Unite said that 96 production jobs at the chicken production south site at Great Witchingham were under threat, with the remaining job losses coming from the head office managerial, technical and clerical staff.
The 45-day consultation period started on Tuesday (7 February). Unite has collective bargaining rights with the production workforce, but not with the head office staff. The north site, which deals with turkey production, is unaffected.
Unite regional officer Steve Harley said: “This is deeply disappointing news as it was only five months ago that it was made clear that the new owner wished to restore Bernard Matthews to its former position as a highly profitable business.
“This was going to be achieved by greater investment in the business and utilising the spare capacity at Bernard Matthews to process chicken and not just turkeys.
“However, following a review of its turkey production operations at its plants in Norfolk and Suffolk, we have been given this news today (Thursday 9 February) that is a big blow to the workers, their families and the local economy.
“Unite’s priority is putting the case that there should be no compulsory redundancies amongst this dedicated workforce. We will also be urging for redeployment within other parts of the Bernard Matthews business and, where this is not possible, look for new employment across other poultry companies, including 2 Sisters.
“The management has announced that unless new opportunities can be sourced to increase demand in all-year chicken production, then it will have to cease such production at its south site.
“Unite wishes to work constructively with the company to see if the chicken production operation can be increased in the next few months.
“Other areas of the business are being restructured or potentially outsourced to third party providers and Unite will be discussing with management the potential impact on our members.”
Unite represents about 600 of the 2,000-strong workforce at the producing sites at Great Witchingham and Holton in Suffolk, as well as the animal food mill at Bawsey, near King’s Lynn. The union said that at present hourly paid staff at Holton, Suffolk should not be affected by these announcements.