The workers at Norfolk turkey producers Bernard Matthews ‘feel betrayed and let down’, as 69 chicken production and 59 managerial job losses were confirmed.
Unite said that the workers were led to believe that when the company was purchased by the Private Office of Ranjit Singh Boparan last September more business for chicken production would be generated.
Mr Ranjit Singh Boparan is the founder and owner of 2 Sisters Food Group.
The 69 chicken production jobs are at the south site at the company’s headquarters at Great Witchingham, Norfolk. The other job losses are managerial, technical and clerical staff. The north site, which deals with turkey production, is unaffected.
“We are obviously disappointed by the announcement that the new owners will cease all year round chicken production at Great Witchingham,” said Unite regional officer Steve Harley.
“Our members, who met senior representatives of the 2 Sisters Food Group during the transition period, feel very let down, as these representatives indicated that investment would secure existing jobs and there was also the opportunity to attract more chicken business to the site, so utilising existing spare capacity.
“This has clearly not happened and, therefore, many of those workers feel betrayed as they consider they were misled.
“That said, Unite has worked closely with the management to minimise the number of redundancies within our bargaining unit and some redundancies were avoided due to redeployment across other parts of the business,” he added.
“Unite accepted that difficult decisions needed to be made as the firm needs to return to profit, but we will fight to ensure that cost reductions are not simply about reducing the workforce headcount.
“Bernard Matthews has clearly suffered greatly from a lack of business strategy under the previous owners, Rutland Partners and we remain hopeful that 2 Sisters will work closely with Unite to ensure both profitability and job security are treated as equal priorities.”
Unite represents about 550 of the 1,400-strong workforce at the production sites at Great Witchingham and Holton in Suffolk. Parts of the former Bernard Matthews business have been transferred to other divisions, or subsidiary parts of the 2 Sisters Group of companies, for example, the animal feed operations at Bawsey, near King’s Lynn.
The union said that, at present, hourly paid staff at Holton, Suffolk are not affected by these announcements.