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Shadow falls on the future of Oscar Mayer Chard factory as jobs are axed

29-Jul-2008

Doubt has been cast over Oscar Mayer's ready meals facility in Chard after the firm announced 250 job cuts last month.

"My view is that there will be no Oscar Mayer in Chard. I think it'll be gone in two years," said GMB southern region organiser Tony Dowling. "Costs are astronomical for distribution because of the factory's location," he said. "It's in a site where it can't expand because it's surrounded by housing, and it used to be an abattoir so it's all on different levels, which isn't ideal for its operations."

Although the GMB only has 80 members at the 813-strong site, it would not accept Oscar Mayer's offer of the minimum redundancy package, said Dowling.

"I've written to Oscar Mayer and asked for a meeting, but I don't think it'll get back to me," he said. He claimed to have experienced a similar situation when Chard-based Hygrade Foods threatened redundancies in 2006 until the union campaigned outside the firm's customer, Tesco. "Tesco then told Hygrade to do something as it was an embarrassment," he said. "We're willing to take similar action by picketing Sainsbury. When the company gets pressure from Sainsbury, it'll speak to us."

Oscar Mayer denies the claims, saying it will remain in operation for the foreseeable future. "There's no truth [to rumours of] our site closing," said human resources manager Mike Thomas. He claimed Chard was a non-unionised site, but added that the firm had a works council on-site with which the firm had discussed potential cost-saving ideas.