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Vion to sell its UK food businesses: uncertainty over 13k jobs

By Mike Stones , 19-Nov-2012
Last updated on 19-Nov-2012 at 18:07 GMT

Uncertainty surrounds the future of 13,000 UK food manufacturing jobs at Vion. Last month the firm closed Hall's with the loss of 1,700 jobs
Uncertainty surrounds the future of 13,000 UK food manufacturing jobs at Vion. Last month the firm closed Hall's with the loss of 1,700 jobs

Uncertainty surrounds the future of 13,000 food manufacturing jobs today (November 19), as Dutch food manufacturing giant Vion announced plans to sell its UK food businesses to concentrate on what it describes as “core markets” in the Netherlands and Germany and its global ingredients business.

The group currently employs 13,000 people at 38 sites in the UK.

Vion said it was confident about its ability to successfully sell its UK pork, red meat and poultry business units as ongoing viable businesses.

Peter Barr, chairman of Vion UK, said: “Working with our advisors Rabobank/Rothschild, we have already started detailed discussions with a number of interested parties, including management, regarding the acquisition of the various parts of the UK business and these are progressing well.”

Barr reported “strong interest in the businesses” and said he hoped to release more information about the progress of sales talks in the near future.

Sale process

The chairman promised the sale process will be completed “in a smooth and orderly fashion to ensure business continuity for our employees, agricultural and other suppliers and our customers”.

The firm began its UK operations in the late 1990s with the acquisition of Key Country Foods, followed by Tranfield and subsequently Grampian Country Food Group in 2008.

Vion supplies beef, lamb, pork and chicken products to a range of customers across the food retailing, food manufacturing and food service sectors.

Members of Unite the union at Vion’s Cambuslang meat processing plant have demanded urgent clarity on job security.

Urgent clarity

Unite convenor at Vion Scot Walker said: “Unite will be approaching management imminently, both local and national, to get urgent clarity on the security of our jobs. We’ve been aware of the speculation surrounding  Vion’s future interests for some time now although nothing was confirmed until today − the workforce heard through the same company sources as the media.

"Vion is a major employer in the South Lanarkshire area and losing jobs or being on the end of pay cuts in this economic climate is unthinkable.”

The union said the Cambuslang site employed more than 350 workers. Most of Vion’s workers are employed its pork, red meat and poultry divisions, which are up for sale, it added.

Last month Vion announced the controversial closure of its Hall’s of Broxburn meat plant in West Lothian with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

Announcing the closure Barr said: “This is a very sad day for the company but, unfortunately, the plant continues to suffer unsustainable losses of £79,000 a day.  Consequently, it is with great regret that we can confirm that it is our intention to proceed with plans for a phased closure of the plant.”

Vion was also embroiled in a row with the Graf Mortgage Corporation , after its failed bid to buy Hall’s of Broxburn. Both parties accused each other of providing misleading information.

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