First Milk closure plans puts jobs at risk

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Jobs are at risk at two Scottish creameries run by First Milk
Jobs are at risk at two Scottish creameries run by First Milk
Jobs are at risk at dairy processor First Milk after it announced plans to close its site in Arran, Scotland.

The company revealed plans to sell the site – as well as another in Campbeltown – in April last year. First Milk deemed the two sites to not be a “strategic fit” ​for the business going forward, despite there being a market for the premium branded cheese products they produced.

The manufacturer has commenced consultations with employees at the Arran creamery, with five jobs at risk. While the consultation will take “as long as it takes”, ​First Milk expected it to last less than a month, with the site closing after the process completes.

Despite being unable to sell the Arran plant, First Milk confirmed that it was in discussions with its local Kintyre farmer members – with active involvement of the Scottish government – to transfer ownership of the Campbeltown creamery to them.

Downscaling operations

However, the manufacturer anticipated that, due to the ongoing economic performance of the Campbeltown site, the scale of the operation would likely change under the new ownership. As a result, it is now in consultation with employees at the site to discuss the proposals, with 11 of the 25 roles at risk of redundancy.

First Milk chief executive Shelagh Hancock said she was disappointed it wasn’t possible to conclude the sale of the Arran creamery, but remained hopeful of securing the future of the Campbeltown site.

“We fully appreciate that these developments have significant consequences for colleagues at the Creameries and the local community, but it is important that we act in the best interest of the wider business and our farmer members and continue with the solid progress we have made in strengthening and developing First Milk.

Impact of the decision

“We regret the impact this decision will have on our colleagues and are committed to treating those affected fairly and with consideration during this difficult time.”

James Barbour, chairman of the Kintyre milk producers’ working group, said it was important to retain processing capacity at the Campbeltown site, but there was still “considerable work to do to bring this to a conclusion”​.

National Farmers Union Scotland milk committee chair John Smith added: “There has been a cloud of doubt hanging over both factories for the past 15 months, since First Milk announced their intention to offload the creameries in April 2018, and this decision is unfortunately the outcome.

“Despite the scaling down of production in Campbeltown, we welcome the news that First Milk has confirmed it is in discussions with local Kintyre farming members, with the active involvement of the Scottish Government, which will hopefully conclude with the Campbeltown Creamery being owned by the local farmers.

“It is vital that both milk and cheese productions continue in an area which plays a vital role in the dairy sector in Scotland.”

Meanwhile, more than 80 jobs are at risk​ at a meat processing facility in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, after the owner announced plans to close the site next month.

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