WORKERS at the Hall’s of Broxburn plant have branded their employers “an absolute disgrace” after learning the plant was to close on Facebook.
Owners Vion announced yesterday they had refused two offers under consideration for the West Lothian plant, and that the site was now due to close by February 2013 with the loss of all 1700 jobs.
Several workers leaving the plant at 6pm yesterday claimed they had heard the news of the closure secondhand.
A spokesman for Vion said an announcement had been made to staff at the plant at 4.30pm yesterday – but admitted not all of the workers would have been told of the decision “face to face”.
The Scottish Government has already outlined what it called a “comprehensive recovery plan” to support the local economy following confirmation of the shutdown.
A taskforce set up in July when the closure plan emerged will now focus on finding alternative jobs for workers.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said: “We are deeply disappointed that Vion have been unable to accept either of these bids and have now confirmed the decision to close Hall’s of Broxburn.
“Teams are already in place working to support staff facing redundancy.”
One of the companies whose bid was rejected hit out at Vion, claiming they never had any intention of selling the business. Steve Green, managing director of Graf Capital, said: “There were no lawyers involved, there were no accountants involved, they would not allow us access to the site, it’s been a charade at the expense of Scottish jobs,”
Magda Mackiewicz, 31, who had worked the early morning shift yesterday, said she found out about the plant’s closure on Facebook.
Magda, who has worked for Hall’s for four years, said: “I saw a post from one of the other workers. It was such a shock. The managers should have told us. They have our contact details, they know how to get in touch with us. My boyfriend also works for Halls, he finished at 3pm today and no one said a word to him about the closure.
“Why they didn’t tell us what was happening, why did we have to find out this way?”
Another employee, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s an absolute disgrace. I’ve worked here for five years, and we have to hear from the internet that the factory will close? I only found out when a friend called me earlier to say he’d seen it online. By that time all the bosses had left, there was no one I could ask about it. They knew the plant was going to close, they’ve just been going through the motions, but to break the news in this way is a really bad business.”
A spokesman for Vion told the Evening News: “An announcement about the closure of the plant was made to staff at about 4.30pm this afternoon. However, given the different shift patterns carried out by our employees, not everyone would have had someone tell them face to face. It’s understandable that people are upset, but it would not be feasible for all workers to be away from their stations at once. All staff were sent out a letter today informing them of the decision. Unfortunately as offers for the plant were still being considered over the weekend this was the earliest the letters could be sent out.”
Vion had earlier turned down an offer from the Scottish Government to buy and lease back the factory, and news of the closure was met with dismay.
West Lothian councillor John McGinty said Vion had “betrayed” their workforce.
“Vion have rejected several bids for the plant and also turned down an innovative proposal put together by West Lothian Council and the Scottish Government, which could have allowed the plant to remain open,” he said.
“What should have been a successful business appears to have been undermined by poor management decisions over the years, and it is unfair that West Lothian workers will be the ones left to pay the price.”
Lawrence Wason, divisional officer for Usdaw, which has around 800 members at the plant, said he was “bitterly disappointed” that a feasible bid could not be found.
“It’s going to devastate Broxburn and the whole of West Lothian will feel the impact,” he said. “We need to make sure all the government agencies are involved to assist the staff, see what other jobs are available, give them retraining and help with their CVs.”
Livingston Labour MP Graeme Morrice described the closure confirmation as “truly depressing news”.
He said: “It’s sad that Vion has not done more when there have been viable options for them to prevent this plant from closing. They opted for closing the doors not just on this facility but also the hopes and aspirations of a community.”