Meat processor Vion UK has rejected an offer by the Scottish government to buy and lease back its threatened Hall’s of Broxburn plant to avert its closure and save 1,700 jobs at the site.
News that Vion had rejected the offer came at a meeting last week (Thursday, September 13) of the task-force set up to try to secure the future of the plant. The bid had been developed by the Scottish government and West Lothian Council and was intended to facilitate investment in the site.
Scottish government finance minister John Swinney said he was disappointed by the company’s decision. He said he would like to hear from anyone interested in buying the plant. Two potential bidders are in talks with the taskforce.
He said: “Along with the leader of West Lothian Council, John McGinty, I put these proposals last week to Peter Bekkers, the chief operating officer at Vion International.
“Vion, while welcoming the innovative nature of the proposals, has advised the taskforce that the proposal is not sufficient to be acceptable to the company.
“The taskforce is now concentrating on identifying profitability improvements, engaging with retailers to sustain contracts at Halls, providing advice to employees and working with two potential bidders to secure investment and we would invite any other interested parties to come forward.”
A spokesman for Vion said: “We greatly appreciate the serious offer of support the Scottish government has made and thank them for the significant assistance they have provided since the start of the consultation process.
“However, given the scale of the losses at Hall’s of £79,000 per day, and the complexity and inefficient layout of the factory, we regret that we are unable to accept this support.
“It would be wrong to accept the offer of public money knowing it is significantly below the amount required to resolve the core legacy problems at the site. It would serve only to delay any potential decision regarding closure.”
More than £100M
The Broxburn plant is competing against much larger, modern plants across Europe, continued the firm. To establish such a facility on the site would cost more than £100M and take up to two years of mounting losses to complete, it claimed:
“Unfortunately the structural issues within the market and the problematic nature of the outdated facility, which we have been consistent about throughout this process, mean we have still not identified a viable solution for the Hall’s site,” said the spokesman.
“We will continue to work through the remaining three weeks of the consultation process with our employees, their union representatives and the various stakeholders who have been involved in this process.
“Our focus now must be on how we can best support our people through the coming weeks.”