Councillor Tom Fitzpatrick, portfolio member for business enterprise and economic development at North Norfolk District Council, who will be attending the talks, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “What we’re interested in is finding out what sort of operation they’re maintaining locally. Our hope is the factory will be bought by someone to maintain a food manufacturing operation.”
Fitzpatrick said the District Council will work with Young’s Seafood regarding its plans for the disposal of the factory and to establish whether there might be interest from other food manufacturers.
Cromer’s “modern and purpose-built food production facility” had a lot to offer prospective buyers, according to Fitzpatrick. He estimated that about £10M had been spent on refitting the factory in the past four years.
Jobs under threat
He also highlighted the employability of the local workforce. Cromer staff continued to work at the site and keep it in production throughout the consultation period when their jobs were under threat.
“Over Christmas the employees pitched in and fulfilled all the orders,” he said. “That’s the mark of a dedicated workforce – these people are very employable.”
As volume production from Cromer’s Norfolk site will be transferred to Young’s factories in Grimsby, the seafood processor will give ex-Cromer employees priority consideration for jobs at the expanded premises in Lincolnshire.
However, Robin Smith of the economic development team at North Norfolk District Council, who will also be attending the talks today, doubted whether many employees would make the move.
Not transient workers
Smith told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “These are not transient workers, they are people who are embedded within our communities, with children attending our schools.”
Both Smith and Fitzpatrick applauded Young’s openness in the discussions. Fitzpatrick said falling demand for warm water prawns had contributed to the site’s demise.
Fitzpatrick told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Young’s has been very open in the consultation. The whole problem is not that the crab market has collapsed it’s more that [demand for] warm water prawns has fallen off in the past few years.”
On May 25 Young’s announced that fish and seafood processing volume from the former Cumbrian Seafoods sites in Seaham and Whitehaven (now known as Ocean Pure Limited), will be transferred into its factories in Grimsby along with shellfish processing volume from Cromer. The move was part of the firm’s “consolidation of its manufacturing footprint”.
The expansion of production at Young’s Humberstone Road and Mardsen Road factories in Grimsby will result in the sites taking on circa 321 staff in addition to the 776 people who currently work there.