The administrator told FoodManufacture.co.uk that partners Joe McLean and Matt Dunham (based at its Newcastle office) are joint administrators of the frozen food firm, which employed around 150 staff, but has not produced products since staff were sent home on February 18.
Working to secure business future
McLean said: “Following our appointment late on Friday we are now working with partners to try to secure a future for the business, by selling it as a going concern to safeguard employment and protect creditors’ interests.”
“The employees at Longbenton Foods have been informed of the position today and I would like to thank them all for their support during this difficult time. Their loyalty and commitment, shown by their high standard of work despite uncertainty, has been vital and we hope to broker a deal that will secure the future of the business."
Grant Thornton added: "With regret, the majority of the employees (with the exeception of a skeleton staff) have been made redundant. JobCentre Plus and other rapid response officials also attended the meeting and everyone received a detailed account of entitlements and benefits."
The firm said that Longbenton's attempt to acquire the business and assets of Northumberland Foods had also ended: "The administrators have called a meeting of the Amble-based employees for tomorrow morning (Wednesday), and will again invite officials from JobCentre Plus and the rapid response team to attend."
Staff still owed February's wages
Keir Howe, regional organiser for the GMB union said she had spoken to the administrators and is advising members at the Newcastle site on how best to reclaim monies owed to them by Longbenton. Staff are still owed February's pay packet, and also incurred direct debit charges levied as a result of this delay and previous late payment of wages.
With staff not formally employed, Howe explained, they can claim money by submitting claims to Grant Thornton under the statutory National Insurance Fund, which covers outstanding wages, notice-, holiday- and redundancy pay; the GMB is also looking into applying for a 'protective award' for staff given Longbenton Foods' failure to consult employees over redundancy.
One staff member told this publication that the administrators said February's wages could take 4-6 weeks to come through, after he filled in forms for the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS). "It's just a case of waiting now and keeping our creditors off our backs," he said.
Howe said the GMB would welcome any suitable potential buyer for Longbenton Foods: "Obviously if the administrators can sell the firm as a going concern and save jobs then that's a great thing," she said.