Lawrence Wason, divisional officer of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), was commenting on a suggestion by the Scottish government’s finance secretary John Swinney, who also cast doubt on the chances of saving all the jobs.
Speaking after the third meeting of a task-force set up to try to secure the future of the plant, Swinney said last week (August 22) that it was “difficult to conceive that all 1,700 jobs at Hall’s of Broxburn can be saved”.
However, Wason said there were grounds for some optimism after the meeting, and he still hoped “the vast majority” of the 1,700 jobs at the site could be saved.
He said: “There were a couple reports fed back to the task-force, one being on the financial position of the site and other one from the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS).
“The company is continuing with losses of £79,000 a day but SMAS has been on site for the last two weeks talking to management, the unions and the employees and they have identified potential savings.
“It would mean some changes to working operations, a reduction in down time of the machinery and making the line more efficient, but they could make savings in excess of £100,000 per week.
“While that clearly does not mitigate the £500,000 they are losing a week it goes some way towards that. The company has agreed it will work with SMAS and others over the next two weeks to see what can be implemented so I am taking some positives out of that.”
However, Wason said he wanted to see a clear commitment from the Vion about its long-term plan was for the site, because at present it was still holding to the proposed closure.
He explained: “There needs to be a full buy-in from the employer to the other stakeholders who are bringing in suggestions to the table with a view on how to change this around.
“It is going to be difficult to maintain 1,700 jobs there. We would hope that we could save the vast majority but there may well be some casualties even with some of the efficiencies we have proposed.”
Wason also said there had been no developments on reports that two companies were interested in acquiring the site. “It’s not been confirmed and it didn’t even feature on the agenda of the task-force meeting,” he said.
The Scottish government set up the task-force in June after Vion UK announced a 90-day consultation on plans to close the Hall’s plant at Broxburn in West Lothian.
The company said the plant, which makes a wide range of products including sausages, haggis and black pudding, was losing £79,000 a day and that the losses were unsustainable.
The task-force includes representatives of USDAW, West Lothian Council, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, Skills Development Scotland, Job Centre Plus, Quality Meat Scotland and the MP and MSP for the area.