‘Sad day for Scotland’ as 1,700 jobs lost at Hall’s plant

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

'A sad day for Scotland': 1,700 jobs will be lost at Hall's with more damage predicted for the local economy
'A sad day for Scotland': 1,700 jobs will be lost at Hall's with more damage predicted for the local economy

Related tags: West lothian

“A sad day for Scotland,” was the verdict of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), after Vion UK confirmed yesterday (October 16) that it will close its Hall’s of Broxburn meat plant with the loss of 1,700 jobs.

The union said it was “bitterly disappointed”​ that no buyer could be found for the business.

Lawrence Wason, the union’s divisional officer, said: “We’re now faced with the loss of around 1,700 jobs from the factory with the devastating impact this will have on individuals, families, the local economy and Scotland itself.

“Generations of families will be hit by this closure and it is a sad day for Scotland. I think the company’s ultimately responsible for the state it find itself in. There​s a long-serving workforce there, which is very skilled, and they​ve done everything they possibly can, industrial relations have been good on an ongoing basis.”

Neither proved viable

Vion UK chairman Peter Barr confirmed that the firm had received two offers for the Hall’s of Broxburn site before Friday’s deadline but neither proved viable.

“Regrettably, having reviewed both offers over the weekend, we have been forced to conclude that neither of these proposals constitutes a viable and sustainable alternative to the proposed closure of the plant,”​ said Barr.

“In neither instance were we assured that either offer provided a guarantee of ongoing employment for the workforce, in spite of the fact that VION was prepared to offer substantial financial assistance to support the acquisition.

“This is a very sad day for the company but, unfortunately, the plant continues to suffer unsustainable losses of £79,000 a day.  Consequently, it is with great regret that we can confirm that it is our intention to proceed with plans for a phased closure of the plant.”

Unsustainable losses

Some areas of Hall’s will cease production later this month with full closure expected to take place by next February.

Both Wason and Scottish government finance and employment secretary John Swinney pledged to work to mitigate the effects of the closure.

Wason said: “We will now be working with the company to put in place facilities to help the workforce seek alternative employment and secure the best possible redundancy terms to help cushion the blow of such massive job losses.

“We have also met West Lothian Council representatives to explore the ways in which help and support can be offered to the workforce over the coming months.”

Swinney said: ​We are deeply disappointed that Vion have been unable to accept either of these bids and have now confirmed the decision to close Hall’s of Broxburn.”

He described the rescue package put together by the Taskforce set up to save the plant as “a strong and creative investment proposition​, ​which was backed by the public sector.

But he added: The work of the Hall’s of Broxburn taskforce will continue. The Scottish government, its agencies and West Lothian Council will work together to find alternative employment for all those affected by this decision and to develop opportunities to enhance the wider West Lothian economy.

​I have today confirmed to West Lothian Council that the Scottish government will partner in the economic regeneration of Broxburn and officials are developing plans which we will bring to the Taskforce at the end of October. These plans will help to mitigate the impact of this closure on West Lothian as a whole.”

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1 comment

Vion Hall's at Broxburn

Posted by Roy Green,

It is so sad to learn of the closure of the Broxburn plant and the loss of 1700 jobs. As a manufacturer of performance improvement systems with a proven track record, we have tried many times over the past five years to encourage the Broxburn site to look at the installation of a performance improvement system to improve efficiencies and reduce operating costs.

Each time we were told: 'Not interested'. The reported operating losses of £79,000 per day were staggering - much of which were unnecessary. As suppliers to major supermarket chains, Broxburn would have had great difficulty in raising prices and would have been expected to achieve total compliance 100% of the time.

Consequently, they needed to focus inwardly to reduce wastage and improve efficiency across the business to become more lean. We saw little evidence of this. To stem losses of £79,000 per day, radical improvements would have been necessary. Such heavy losses probably represent more than 10% of turnover. However, we have helped even major companies to improve eliminate non conformance's and simultaneously improve performance by more than 30% of turnover.

We have no doubt that similar achievements would have been possible at Vion Broxburn but we couldn't find anyone willing to listen.

Even more sadly, we believe there are many more companies within the food and drink sector currently struggling with the need to improve their compliance, reduce wastage and raise profitability in order to survive, which are not listening. That means they are unlikely to survive unless they see the value in doing some things differently and most things better.

In this current increasingly competitive climate no company can expect to continue to survive and prosper if it continues to do what they have always done, or at best, just make a few superficial changes of little value and the benefits of which are rarely sustained in any event.

Companies likely to stay around and be prosperous are the ones who continually review their operations to eliminate errors, wastage and scrap while improving efficiency. It's all very doable but factory management and business owners need to engage with the tools and techniques available to make issues and performance enhancing opportunities instantly visible in such a way that drives and sustains cost effective improvement.

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