Vion has announced that it may close its West Lothian processing plant despite four years of investment and restructuring. The facility, which processes some 8,000 pigs a week, is the major handler of Scottish pork, and its closure would put 1,700 individuals out of work.
Meat processing giant Vion has announced that it may close its largest processing plant in Scotland, putting 1,700 jobs in jeopardy. The site is the major processing facility for Scottish pork, and handles around 8,000 pigs each week.
However the Hall’s of Broxburn site in West Lothian has seen spiralling losses over the past four years, despite significant investment and a restructuring exercise.
Vion UK chairman Peter Barr said: “This is an extremely sad day and one we have strenuously tried to avoid for the past four years, but the huge losses being incurred mean we believe we have no alternative.
“Every possible step has been taken to secure the future of the business, but we are currently losing £79,000 (€99,060) per day at the site, which is clearly unsustainable.
“Over the past four years, we have restructured this plant, invested heavily in the site and have brought in new management from across the group in an attempt to stem the losses, which have arisen in part due to the complexity and inefficient layout of the plant. Regrettably, the plant remains very heavily in the red despite our best endeavours.
“We have also invested significantly in a modern apprenticeship scheme at the plant, which attracted the offer of grant support from the Scottish government. While we were extremely grateful for the support offered, clearly, in the circumstances, we have not and will not be drawing on those funds.
“If the consultation exercise does not reveal a viable way forward for this plant, a proportion of the work from these facilities will be transferred to other Vion UK plants to strengthen their performance and help secure jobs. However, the market conditions are so severe that we will cease to supply the majority of products currently handled by this plant. We will make every endeavour to identify other Scottish producers who may be able to produce some of these products.
“We have today spoken to the workforce of the plant affected and have opened discussions with union representatives. We have also informed Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. If the plant closure is confirmed, we will take all practical steps to work with the relevant agencies to minimise the undoubtedly significant impact on jobs and local economies.
“Clearly, our Hall’s of Broxburn site is a major market for the Scottish pig farming industry and we would, therefore, hope to extend the timeframe for any closure plan for the abattoir at the site in order to help minimise the potential impact on Scottish pig farmers.”
He said there was significant over-capacity in the UK meat industry and market conditions were extremely challenging. Earlier this year, Vion UK reported a deterioration in its financial results in comparison to the previous year.
The company today announced that it was beginning a 90-day consultation exercise with its unions and workers.
The news was been greeted with dismay by the head of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), who described it as a “body blow” to the Scottish pig industry. However, Jim McLaren, QMS chairman, said that this must be set aside in order to “tirelessly explore” all of the options in retaining operations at the Broxburn plant.
He said: “The plant clearly faces infrastructure difficulties and these are set against the backdrop of tight margins and general over-capacity being endured by many abattoirs operating in the red meat sector.
“Quality Meat Scotland will be working closely with Vion, the Scottish Government and the wider industry to ensure action is taken to secure the future of the industry in Scotland and to allow it to move forward with confidence.
“Our pig sector has repeatedly shown its resilience and ability to adapt to a range of challenges in recent years and this flexibility is a great strength. Our producers are highly efficient and now very much focused on long-term sustainability.”
Source: Meat Info UK