Workers were sent home from the mammoth frozen foods factory in Benton Lane, Newcastle – which made Findus Food products such as Crispy Pancakes – on February 18, without any information about when they might return to work.
Without a finish date around 150 staff were left in limbo, owed wages for February, unable to sign-on for benefits and unsure if or when production might restart.
A spokesman for the government's Insolvency Service gained confirmation from site administrator Grant Thornton's Newcastle branch that the firm went into administration last Friday, although we have yet to learn whether it is being sold as a going concern or when staff will be paid up to date.
New security firm onsite
However, one former Longbenton Foods worker told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “One of the employees went to the…factory to see what was happening and there is a caravan parked on site with a new security firm there."
He added that he believed regional development agency One North East had been prepared to give Longbenton md Geir Frantzen further funding for the factory if the businessman also contributed funds, but that it had not been possible to reach an agreement.
Frantzen still fighting?
Berwick upon Tweed MP Sir Alan Beith’s press officer confirmed the firm was in administration, and said she had spoken with Frantzen on Saturday to find out what his views are: “He said he’s still determined to get somewhere, and get both businesses back on track, but we’re not terribly confident given what’s happened.”
She added that Sir Alan’s was focusing on the future of staff at Longbenton Food’s former Amble site. She said they were given a verbal agreement by the firm that they would be paid for days when they were sent home when production stopped shortly before Christmas, and for bank charges as a result of late wage payments, but have yet to receive monies.
FoodManufacture.co.uk has tried without success to contact Longbenton Foods management for comment since February 18.
*Correction: This morning we incorrectly stated that Walker Singleton was the site administrator, when in fact the chartered surveyor is merely an agent acting on behalf of administrator Grant Thornton.