John Tonner, area organiser of the Union of Shop, Distribution and Allied Workers, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that European cold storage gas regulation, which comes into force in 2014, could force the closure of the Freshlink Foods sausage factory in Glasgow.
On June 22 all of the factory’s 144 staff were given letters that indicated the start of a 90-day consultation period about the future of the site.
Freshlink Foods is the largest private-label frozen sausage supplier in the UK retail market. It produces over 120 varieties of sausage and a range of frozen formed grill steaks for retail and foodservice.
Usdaw area organiser John Tonner said factory staff had told him the reason for the closure was the need for “a multi-million-pound upgrade” of the factory’s cold storage gas facilities to bring it line with legislation coming in in 2014.
The use of all Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant gases is completely banned from the end of 2014, according to European Commission regulation.
Tonner told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “One worker told me it [an upgrade] would be equivalent to putting a Rolls Royce engine inside a Ford Escort.”
Freshlink Foods refused to comment on the claim.
The company issued the following statement: “Freshlink Foods in Glasgow today (June 22) commenced a minimum 90-day consultation period with its workforce regarding the possibility of a restructuring of its operations, which may impact on the future of the site, resulting in the potential relocation of its business.”
Tonner said the management had been directly challenged about the future of the site and they had not been positive.
He said: “When asked outright: ‘What would it take to keep this site open?’ They couldn’t answer. One even said: ‘I don’t know.’”
The company was likely to move its business elsewhere, according to Tonner. He said there was spare capacity at some of the other sites. Despite this, no staff had been offered employment elsewhere.
“The staff are devastated,” Tonner said. “Their lives are now on hold because they don’t know what’s happening to their livelihood.”
Tonner said there was no suggestion that the business was suffering.
“There was one attempt to get funding from Gateway Scotland, which failed as European legislation has restricted the amount of funding available,” he said.
Freshlink Foods said several options were “currently under consideration, and a final decision is not expected for a number of months”.