Workers at closing food factory learn their fate

Kerry Foods at Dragonville, Durham
Kerry Foods at Dragonville, Durham
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HUNDREDS of workers at an under-threat food company are set to learn their fate.

Redundancy consultation with 350 staff at Kerry Foods, which is closing its production plant in Gilesgate, Durham, will come to an end this week.

The Irish firm announced in March that it was shutting its meat, snack and bakery plant.

Bosses attempts to make it turn a profit have failed during the past six months.

Although an “official consultation period” has now ended, it is understood staff are having one-to-one interviews with management on redundancy packages and possible moves to other factory sites.

Trade union Usdaw said news on the plant’s future is expected this week.

George Cain, North East organiser for Usdaw, said: “We’re getting to the end of the process now and an announcement should be made soon.

“It’s been a drawn-out process and extremely stressful for the workforce, although I must say they have brilliant and professional throughout.”

Stewart Watkins, managing director of Business Durham, the county council’s industry developmenty unit, said workers will be helped into new employment if possible.

Mr Watkins said: “We have contacted the company and are already considering how we can assist.

“We will be looking at all options, working with other agencies to offer advice and assistant to the workforce and to those companies within the supply chain.”

When a possible closure was first announced, Joanne Thomas, Usdaw’s North East divisional officer, described it as “disastrous news”.

“Many of our members have worked at the site for years and a number even work alongside their parents or sons and daughters so any closure could destroy the incomes of entire families,” she said.

“There has been no prior warning that closure was being considered or even a suggestion that the future of the site could be in doubt, so our members are understandable extremely shocked, angry and distressed.”

Work is being moved to sites in Ireland, Lincolnshire and Norfolk.

Frank Hayes, director of corporate affairs at Kerry Group, said: “The workforce is fantastic and this is a very regrettable decision.

“The facility has been making a loss for quite a while and the workforce has known that we have been trying to secure the future of the site.”

Mr Hayes said the firm was not accepting new orders for the site.

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