It was “a worrying time” for employees, said the union, following the decision of owners Rutland Partners to appoint PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to seek potential buyers.
The union will seek assurances about the security of jobs at a meeting with management planned to take place at the processor’s Great Witchingham headquarters in Norfolk Friday week (July 15). Unite represents about 450 of the 2,000-strong workforce.
“It is a worrying time for our members and we will be seeking clarity on what this means for the company and the workers when we meet management on Friday July 15,” said Unite regional officer Steve Harley.
‘Profit margins being squeezed’
“Unite recognises that Bernard Matthews is in a very competitive marketplace with profit margins being squeezed. This issue is one for the management’s marketing and sales team to address as a matter of urgency.
“Our members are dedicated and hardworking, and have contributed to the company’s long-standing success with its iconic name – and Unite will do everything possible to support them during this period of uncertainty.”
Harley said he was disappointed the business had not informed the union directly.
Unite members work at the firm’s processing sites at Great Witchingham and Holton in Suffolk, and its animal food mill at Bawsey, near King’s Lynn.
No one from Bernard Matthews or PwC was available to speak to FoodManufacture.co.uk about the prospective sale.
Bernard Matthews was understood to have emailed staff to inform them that the firm’s owner had appointed business advisers to help find a buyer after “disappointing results” over the past year.
According to BBC News, Rutland Partners ceo Alan Jamieson wrote in the email to staff: “This does not affect the internal operation of the business.”
“Neither does it reduce in any way Rutland’s support for the BM [Bernard Matthews] management team as it continues to strengthen and improve the business following the disappointing results achieved over the last year or so.”
Rutland Partners acquired a £25M stake Bernard Mathews – Europe’s largest turkey processor – three years ago and invested a further £10M last year.
Bernard Matthews reported turnover of £276.8M for the year ending 2015, down from £306.8M the previous year.
Over the past decade, Bernard Matthews suffered both from sharp rises in feed costs and an outbreak of bird flu at its Holton processing site in Suffolk nine years ago.
Read more about the processor’s search for a purchaser here.