Sam Vickers, regional secretary at the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), claimed Delmonte’s decision was directly influenced by the loss of a key Morrisons contract, believed to be worth about £16M.
“You’ve got a Yorkshire company putting another Yorkshire…[business unit] … out of business,” said Vickers. “This is at a time when people are complaining about food miles. But where better to source fresh food from than from a locally based producer?”
Refused to comment
A Morrisons spokesman confirmed that the firm had cancelled a contract with Del Monte. But he refused to comment on whether that decision had influenced Del Monte’s job cuts plan.
The spokesman said: “Following a comprehensive product review process that included Del Monte, we took the difficult decision to award the contract to another supplier.”
It was not the firm’s policy to comment on relationships with suppliers in any more detail, he added.
The York factory at Skelton Park, which produces salads and coleslaws for a range of retailers, could close by mid April.
Vickers said Del Monte was doing everything in its power to keep the facility open while retailers were making ever larger profits. “Retailers are going from half-a-billion profit to a billion when people are struggling to make any profit at all. And then they complain about people not having any money to spend,” he said.
The factory closure has yet to be confirmed and talks between the union and Del Monte are to resume next week. Vickers said he hoped the firm could secure another contract in order to avoid closing the York factory.
Grasping at miracles
Del Monte is currently in talks with Asda but the retailer would be unlikely to offer a contract large enough to compensate for the loss of the Morrisons deal, said Vickers. “You’re grasping at miracles at this point,” he said.
Closing the York factory would mean the loss of 140 jobs since the firm’s other UK facilities would make relocation an unrealistic option, said Vickers.
Del Monte refused to comment on its plans for the York factory.
Meanwhile, councillor James Alexander, Labour leader of City of York Council, said: “We are fully committed to supporting the future of our city’s economy, so I’m concerned to hear of the possible closure of Del Monte. I hope it can be resolved as soon as possible for the sake of the current employees.”
Del Monte acquired the York factory in 2003 when its previous owner, Fisher Foods, went into administration.