Union slams ‘catastrophic news’ of Vion meat plant closure

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Scottish enterprise, West lothian

More than 1,700 jobs are at risk at Hall's of Broxburn
More than 1,700 jobs are at risk at Hall's of Broxburn
Union representatives of workers at Vion’s Broxburn meat plant in Scotland have slammed “the catastrophic news” that its closure threatens more than 1,700 jobs.

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) represents 800 workers out of a total workforce of 1,150 permanent staff and nearly 600 agency workers.

Stewart Forrest, USDAW’s deputy Scottish divisional officer, said: “This is absolutely catastrophic news for everyone who works at Vion Hall’s and for Broxburn and West Lothian.

"Our members are understandably shocked and extremely angry at the announcement.”

Forrest asked why the firm had waited until the eleventh hour before engaging with its employees and their union. “We will be examining the company’s business case for the proposed closure in detail and want to know when losses started and why so little action appears to have been taken to address them until now.”

Vion revealed last month that the site had financial problems, leading union members to defer pay negotiations but no indication of the true scale of the problems was given, said Forrest. “That is extremely regrettable and, in my view, totally unacceptable,” ​he added.

Totally unacceptable

Yesterday (July 5) a task force — including USDAW, West Lothian Council, the MP and MSP for the area, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, Skills Development Scotland, Job Centre Plus and Quality Meat Scotland — was formed to avert the closure of the plant.

Speaking after the first meeting of the task force, Scottish government finance secretary John Swinney said: "The taskforce agreed that its key focus is maintaining continuity of business at Hall's of Broxburn and we are entirely committed to that exercise."

Richard Lochhead, rural affairs secretary added: "Today​ [July 5] has been a difficult day for both the West Lothian and the wider Scottish community – particularly the pig sector and agricultural industry.

"Hall's is a major food business in a major Scottish sector and the taskforce has been set up to ensure this can continue. For them, it will be business as usual and they remain committed to the plant. However, it is important that we understand the potential challenges facing the sector and have solutions in place should these be required."

No alternative

Vion announced a 90-day consultation with unions and workers yesterday. Vion UK chairman Peter Barr said: “This is an extremely sad day and one we have strenuously tried to avoid for the past four years, but the huge losses being incurred mean we believe we have no alternative.

“Every possible step has been taken to secure the future of the business but we are currently losing £79,000 per day at the site, which is clearly unsustainable.”

There was significant over-capacity in the UK meat industry and market conditions were “extremely challenging”​, he added.

Vion UK produces and processes beef, lamb, pork and chicken, plus sausages, cooked meats and other convenience products.

In mid June it announced 340 job cuts at Vion Food Netherlands and 290 job cuts at Vion Food Germany.

Their parent firm has a turnover of €9.5bn and employs 26,500 staff across Europe.

To read more about the closure, click here​.

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