That’s the opinion of Adam Skwierawski, area organiser for Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk for trades union Usdaw, who told FoodManufacture.co.uk the plans threatened 432 full-time jobs, plus temporary workers’ contracts.
2 Sisters internally confirmed intentions to close the Haughley Park site yesterday (August 12), the same day it publicly announced it had created 200 posts in Sheffield over two months.
Skwierawski said: “It’s heartbreaking to see these skilled jobs going. I think in the light of recent developments in the food manufacturing sector, there is a need for the government to intervene to provide support.”
Heavy impact on local communities
He feared if the government did not “provide the necessary liquidity”, such factory closures would have a heavy impact on local families, communities and economies.
He expected a 45-day consultation over staff implications to begin next week and said he and the company were doing everything in their power to find alternative employment for those affected.
“I will go out of my way to ensure that as many jobs as possible are absorbed by other factories within the group. Fortunately the company recently appointed a team of capable managers for this division and the early discussions we are having are quite positive.”
2 Sisters divisional md Olivier Goudineau said in a statement: “We are totally committed to producing the highest quality food for consumers in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way.
“Sadly, Haughley Park is an ageing site with many challenges and it does not enable us to fulfil our commitment to sustainable manufacturing.
“Our immediate priority now is to have meaningful discussions with our colleagues during this consultation period to see if other solutions can be found.”
2 Sisters Food Group has extensive operations in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex, at Eye, Flixton, Witham, Basildon and Thetford, and employs more than 2,000 people.
Skwierawski said 2 Sisters had reported “negative profitability” for the factory “since my first involvement with that site going back to 2008”.
However, it had invested millions in the plant in recent years, he said. “So I have no reason to believe the current move was pre-planned. A number of people within the company tried hard to turn the site around.”
Haughley Park is an older site, unconnected to 2 Sisters’ acquisition of Northern Foods in 2011 or Vion’s meat processing sites earlier this year. It was acquired when 2 Sisters bought John Rannoch in 2005.
Although the plant previously handled coated chicken as well as roasted chicken products, the coated side of the business was relocated to 2 Sisters’ factory in Thetford two years ago.
A recent FoodManufacture.co.uk article painted a mixed picture of job prospects in food and drink manufacturing for the first half of 2013, although based on announcements, more jobs were created than lost.