Hall’s owners accused of ‘going through motions’

Hall's sausage factory in Broxburn
Hall's sausage factory in Broxburn
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CONCERN was growing today for the future of the Hall’s meat processing factory in Broxburn amid fears that owners Vion were only “going through the motions” in trying to avert closure.

Finance Minister John Swinney admitted last week that it was “difficult to conceive” that all 1700 jobs at the West Lothian plant could be saved.

And sources today questioned whether the Dutch-based company, which took over the plant in 2008 – and now says it is losing £79,000 per day – still had the will to try to make it viable.

One source said reports on last week’s meeting of the task force set up to rescue the plant had concluded the factory was being inefficiently run “from top to bottom”.

The source said: “There were a whole range of efficiency savings identified, better ways of doing things and the company indicates it will look at it all, but the feeling is they are just going through the motions.”

And another insider said: “There has to be a will here on behalf of Vion and I’m not sure that will is there.”

The Scottish Manufacturing Service (SMAS) recommended improvements in the production process after being called in to look at the factory, which has been expanded piecemeal over the years.

Lawrence Wason, divisional officer for USDAW, said the proposed changes would help drive down the losses without the need for significant new investment.

But he acknowledged the measures would probably not eliminate the losses altogether.

And he warned efficiency measures could mean a reduced workforce. He said: “It is difficult to refute what Mr Swinney said.”

But Mr Wason added: “It’s not all doom and gloom. SMAS and Scottish Enterprise are now going to be working closely with the company over the next couple of weeks. But I have a question mark over the company’s position beyond that. Their position may well be that their plan will go ahead unless another buyer comes in.”

The Evening News reported earlier this month that Scottish Enterprise had told other task group members two potential buyers had expressed interest in the site, but nothing more appears to have come of this.

Mr Wason said: “I’m not aware of talks going on with any interested parties.

“But we are still at this stage of trying to see what possible alternatives there are.”

Livingston Labour MP Graeme Morrice, whose constituency includes Broxburn, said: “We all continue to work together to do what we can to ensure that at least something remains on the Broxburn site that is profitable.”

A spokesman for Vion said: “Discussions are continuing with Scottish Enterprise and SMAS and other members of the task force.”