Redundancies at troubled Halls plant may be just weeks away

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The troubled Hall’s meat processing factory will be shut down by February unless a buyer can be found, it has been announced.

Owners Vion have said that a “phased shutdown” would start later this month if a “sustainable solution” could not be found, meaning that the first redundancies could be only weeks away.

In a letter to workers, management said discussions were continuing with parties interested in the Broxburn factory, which open in 1932.

Vion’s UK chairman, Peter Barr, said: “We have done everything in our power to avoid having to take this extremely regrettable action but we have been unable to identify any viable alternative to the closure of the plant.

“This is a very sad day for all those involved but, unfortunately, the unsustainable losses which the plant continues to suffer, combined with the challenging economic conditions across all food sectors, have left us with no alternative.”

In July, Vion announced that it was launching a 90-day consultation period on shutting down the plant, which it said was losing £79,000 per day.

Mr Barr added: “As we outlined when we made our initial announcement in July, Vion has invested tens of millions of pounds in the Hall’s site over a number of years but it continues to record unsustainable losses.

“The outdated and inefficient layout of the site, overcapacity in the marketplace and increasing costs mean that it has been loss making for a number of years.”

Last month, Vion rejected a Scottish Government rescue plan designed to save hundreds of jobs at the plant in September on the grounds that the level of funding was “significantly below” that required to resolve the site’s problems.

But Finance Secretary John Swinney has confirmed that the Hall’s of Broxburn taskforce will work with the company to find a buyer for the site, despite yesterday’s announcement.

Livingston MP Graeme Morrice said: “I am very angry at this decision. It seems to confirm that Vion’s senior management have simply been stringing every-
one along for the last three months.

“A huge collective effort is now required to ensure that all those who face losing their jobs receive the help they need to find alternative employment or training opportunities.”

In August, the Evening News revealed concerns that Vion was just “going through the motions” in trying to secure a future for the plant, which makes a wide variety of products, including sausages, haggis and black puddings.

Stewart Forrest, Usdaw’s deputy Scottish divisional officer, said: “The news is extremely devastating for our members, I think they are still in shock.

“We’ve been trying for some weeks to get an extension to the consultation. The first redundancies could only be weeks away.”

Vion Food Group purchased the Hall’s site in August 2008, when it acquired the troubled Grampian Country Food Group.