Unite the union has urged Asda to reinstate its contract with Welsh Country Foods (WCF). The plea comes after WCF’s owner Vion UK warned that losing the contract could force the closure of the Anglesey site with the loss of up to 350 jobs.
Unite national officer for the sector Julia Long said: “We urge Asda to re-think what we feel is its misguided strategy in this instance and work with Vion to establish a viable future for Welsh Country Foods and to save these jobs.”
Long added that the threat of closure was “desperately sad news” for the employees at WCF on the Isle of Anglesey, as well as their families. “The knock-on effect for the local economy could be severe, as there are limited alternative employment opportunities on the island,” she said.
‘Glimmer of hope’
"A glimmer of hope is that the Vion Food Group realises the gravity of the situation and has pledged to have discussions with Asda − its main customer for its fresh lamb products − to see if the decision to close the Anglesey plant can be overturned.”
But a spokesman for Asda said on Friday (January 11): “This decision was not taken lightly, however we feel it is an opportune time to review our lamb sourcing to meet the changing needs of our customers.
“We have built a strong relationship with Welsh lamb farmers and we remain committed to sourcing lamb from the country.”
Andy Richards, Unite Wales secretary, described the news that Vion could shut its Anglesey site as “a blow to those who work there, the local community and the economy of the island”.
Richards added: “This is a sad start to 2013 for our members and we will be doing all we can to ensure both support and a viable future for Welsh workers at Welsh Country Foods.”
Richards pledged to raise the matter urgently with the Welsh government.
Anglesey council leader and economic development portfolio holder, Councillor Bryan Owen, described the news as "hugely disappointing”.
“Welsh Country Foods is a major employer, not just on Anglesey but in Wales," said Owen. "Losing nearly 350 jobs on Anglesey would be a hammer blow for the local economy.
“However, we hope to meet with Vion representatives to see what support we can offer as county council.”
Owen said it would work with WCF to see if there’s anything it could do to help prevent job losses. But if unsuccessful the council would ensure there’s “a robust and co-ordinated public sector response to the redundancies”.
Jose Peralta, md of Vion’s red meat business, said: “This is an extremely difficult day for everyone at Welsh Country Foods following the decision by its key customer to de-list Welsh Country Foods as a supplier.
"We recognise the impact this decision will have on the local economy and the community in Anglesey. And we are currently in discussions with the retailer to establish whether their decision can be overturned and if any steps can be taken to mitigate their decision.”