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Bernard Matthews set to shed 160 jobs

PUBLISHED: 13:00 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 07:55 02 July 2010

Jeff Halliwell, Bernard Matthews managing director

Jeff Halliwell, Bernard Matthews managing director

Sam Williams

Up to 160 jobs will be lost at Bernard Matthews as part of an ongoing drive to improve efficiency.

The turkey producer, one of Norfolk's biggest employers, yesterday announced plans to shift its frozen whole bird operations from Great Witchingham to its plant in Holton, Suffolk.

Up to 160 jobs will be lost at Bernard Matthews as part of an ongoing drive to improve efficiency.

The turkey producer, one of Norfolk's biggest employers, yesterday announced plans to shift its frozen whole bird operations from Great Witchingham to its plant in Holton, Suffolk.

The relocation is aimed at improving efficiency in the frozen whole bird part of the business, which is currently not profitable, and is expected to result in up to 90 redundancies in the spring and up to 70 in early 2011, when the move will take place.

The move is not expected to result in additional jobs at Holton, but the company said some Great Witchingham workers could be offered alternative roles at the Suffolk plant.

The North Site at Great Witchingham has not been affected by the announcement, although the firm also announced plans for a “small number” of redundancies in unrelated roles there and elsewhere in the business.

The announcement comes half way into a four-year strategy aimed at achieving profitable growth at Bernard Matthews.

Despite sales of £335.5m in 2008 the company reported a modest operating profit of £857,000, after an operating loss of £9.6m the previous year.

Jeff Halliwell, Bernard Matthews UK managing director, said: “We are two years into a four-year strategy to return the business to profitable growth and while the company's results are moving in the right direction, we are still far from the levels of returns the business should be making.

“Key to this is the fact that the frozen whole bird part of our business is currently unprofitable.

“Rather than exit the frozen bird market we have carried out a detailed review of the operation, and have developed a plan that ensures this part of the business returns to profitability.

“The plan requires transferring the production of frozen whole birds to our Holton site in Suffolk. The move cannot be completed until early 2011, but it is our duty to explain the rationale and consult with staff and the union as early as possible.”

He added: “We appreciate that this consultation process may cause a degree of uncertainty for our staff, and we will provide staff with regular updates with regards to any further developments.”

Mr Halliwell said he was unable to confirm whether other processing operations would be relocated from Great Witchingham, saying all parts of the business were “under constant review”.

But he added: “Very considerable operations continue at the Great Witchingham site and it is still the centre of operations of the business.”

Ivan Crane, regional industrial organiser for union Unite, said the announcement was “disappointing” and “a blow” to the local jobs market, adding: “We will be entering immediate talks with the company to explore alternative options to redundancy.”

Do you have a business story for the Evening News? Call senior business writer Sam Williams on 01603 772447 or email sam.williams@archant.co.uk

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