Birds Eye today (11 January) announced the closure of its factory in Hull, which manufactures frozen fish, due to unsustainable capacity in its supply chain. The closure will result in the loss of 490 jobs, venture capitalists Permira said.
The processing plant has seven main production lines manufacturing a number of products including fish fingers, fish cakes and frozen peas. The facility is scheduled to close in September 2007, with production being moved to Bremerhaven, Germany and Lowestoft, UK.
Delivering the news, Birds Eye Iglo chief executive Martin Glenn said: “We have inherited a business that has unsustainable overcapacity.
“The frozen food market is increasingly cost-driven. To be competitive you require large scale, highly efficient production facilities.
“The future success of our fish category can be best served through the consolidation of our production facilities into our larger and more efficient sites in Bremerhaven and Lowestoft.”
The GMB union, representing the Hull workers who will lose their jobs, was critical of both Permira and Unilever who sold the Birds Eye business last August.
The GMB claimed that when Unilever sold the business workers were given assurances about their jobs.
“Unilever, when announcing the sale of this plant on 29th August 2006 to venture capitalists Permira, gave the workforce an assurance that jobs and terms and conditions would be maintained for three years. This was pure cynicism by Unilever who had got fat on profits from food factories on Humberside. Unilever will not be forgiven for this cynical and dishonest behaviour or for the sale of the company to buccaneering venture capitalist asset strippers Permira well known to GMB for sacking one in three workers when they took over the AA in 2004,” John Wilson, the GMB Senior Organiser for union members at the factory, said.
The GMB suggested that the move should be viewed in the wider context of outsourcing production and manufacturing to lower-cost countries in the EU and beyond.
Union officials will begin talks at the factory today to negotiate redundancy packages for the workers. The union put the number of job losses at the factory at 600.