Unite, the union representing workers at the UK’s largest turkey producer Bernard Matthews, has called for clarity over the company’s future after it emerged the business’ private-equity owners are consulting with advisers on a possible sale. 

It was confirmed today (30 June) that Rutland Partners have appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers to “consider options” for the business.

Rumours Bernard Matthews was facing financial problems – and would potentially struggle to meet its financial obligations – emerged last month. However, at the time a spokesperson for the group downplayed concerns. Bernard Matthews insisted the company is a “sound, well-run company” adding it is “business as usual” at the turkey processor. 

In an email to employees this week, published by the BBC, Rutland Partners’ executive chairman Alan Jamieson insisted the private-equity group’s decision to divest its interest in Bernard Matthews would not affect the “internal operation of the business”. 

He continued: “Neither does it reduce in any way Rutland’s support for the BM management team as it continues to strengthen and improve the business following the disappointing results achieved over the last year or so.”

Responding to the news, Unite said it will be “raising its concerns” with management at the company’s Great Witchingham headquarters in Norfolk at a meeting on 15 July.

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Unite regional officer Steve Harley said: “It is a worrying time for our members and we will be seeking clarity on what this means for the company and the workers… Unite recognises that Bernard Matthews is in a very competitive marketplace with profit margins being squeezed. This issue is one for the management’s  marketing and sales team to address as a matter of urgency.”

Turnaround specialists Rutland Partners took a stake in the business three years ago. Since then, the company appointed former Hain Celestial executives Rob Burnett as CEO and Andy Deutsch as COO.

Unite represents about 450 of the 2,000-strong workforce and its members are based at the production sites at Great Witchingham and Holton in Suffolk, as well as the animal food mill at Bawsey, near King’s Lynn.