Job losses threat

Pictured with Jane is MD of Victoria Foods Dan Ross.

Pictured with Jane is MD of Victoria Foods Dan Ross.

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SCORES of jobs could be lost at a major food plant in Leigh after shocked staff were issued with a consultation notice to close the business.

More than 140 people at Victoria Foods, on Bright Street, face redundancy after the move which has devastated the company’s employees and drawn outrage from the town’s MP.

The company, which makes a range of home baking products including the popular Jane Asher kits, was bought out by Yorkshire-based firm Symington’s last month.

However, despite initial guarantees concerning the future of the business the company’s 142-strong workforce was issued with a 90-day consultation notice last week and told the owners intend to move production to a site in Bradford.

A staff member, who asked not to be named, said: “The morale is just horrendous. The day after the notice was issued I walked into the canteen and there were grown men crying.

“It’s a close-knit group and a lot of people have worked on the shop floor here for years. It feels more like grieving for the break-up of a family unit than losing your job.

“Now we’re just waiting to see what’s going to happen next.”

Staff are currently voting to elect five representatives who will lead the fight to keep the plant open and represent workers’ interests, a process which should be completed by next week.

Leigh MP Andy Burnham has vowed to fight the proposals and do everything possible to safeguard local jobs.

He said: “Victoria Foods is a well-established company with an experienced and predominantly local workforce which has had this bombshell dropped on it.

“Leigh can ill afford to lose this number of manufacturing jobs at this moment in time. I can promise I will back the staff 100 per cent and have already opened discussions with Symington’s to find out exactly what they are proposing.

“My first objective will be to persuade them to maintain the company in Leigh, but if that is not possible I will open discussions with other local companies to keep the plant open, as food processing is a very vibrant sector in Wigan.

“I will also be working to secure the best possible redundancy packages for the staff affected.

A statement from Symington’s read: “Symington’s can confirm that on July 16 it announced the intention to launch a 90-day employee consultation process regarding a proposal to potentially discontinue activities at Victoria Foods in Leigh and establish a single, efficient, low-cost production centre at Symington’s’ Low Moor facility in Bradford.

“The priority for Symington’s is now the people who are potentially affected by this proposal, and we will not be making further comment on this matter until the consultation process has been completed.

“We will be offering as much support as possible to our employees during this time.”