79 jobs safe, but for how long?

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DETERMINED community leaders have vowed to do all they can to help safeguard jobs at an Amble factory.

The immediate future of 79 positions at Border Laird – part of the Cumbrian Seafoods group which went into administration on Monday but was sold to Young’s Seafood Limited – look secure.

But the long-term prospects for the Amble site, which is based at Coquet Enterprise Park, are still up in the air.

It has prompted a desperate fight to encourage frozen fish giant Young’s to continue operations in the town.

The news comes less than a year after around 80 people were made redundant, which brought the total number of jobs lost to 230, at the former Northumberland Foods factory in Amble, which has remained empty since closing its doors in March.

MP Sir Alan Beith said: “It is crucial for the town that we do everything we can to protect these jobs. It is always disappointing when a business goes into administration but with the involvement of Young’s, it sounds as though the factory in Amble will be continuing to operate as normal, at least for the time being.

“I am working hard to encourage Young’s to stay in operation in Amble where there is a dedicated and skilled workforce and a fleet of fishing boats able to supply the factory.

“I have also explained that, following the closure of the Northumberland Foods factory, there is an additional pool of skilled workers which could be an incentive for the business to expand in the area.

“I will continue to have discussions about the future of the Amble operation with senior managers from Young’s and other organisations over the coming weeks.”

The Gazette has been told that production at the Amble site has continued this week and Young’s management team has visited the premises.

Young’s has also been in touch with the two county councillors for the area – Coun Robert Arckless and Coun Jeff Watson – to see if they wanted to discuss the issue.

Both have said they are willing to hold talks with the company, stressing the importance of securing the jobs at the site and saying they will do what they can to help.

Cumbrian Seafoods, based in Seaham, County Durham, and its subsidiary Border Laird, called in administrators because of rising raw-material costs and a reduction in activity.

Robert Hebenton, Toby Underwood and Ian Green, of PricewaterhouseCoopers, were appointed as joint administrators for the companies, but later confirmed the sale of the business, customer contracts and equipment to a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lion Capital, which separately owns Young’s.

The acquisition of the companies has secured the immediate future of operations across the three sites in the north of England – the principal processing site at Seaham, which employs 378 people, one at Whitehaven, Cumbria, employing 117 people, and the Amble site.

Future options, which could involve integration and servicing of customer contracts by Young’s, will be explored over the coming weeks.

Leendert den Hollander, chief executive of Young’s, said: “This is the beginning of a process and the teams involved will work hard to understand the business and consider in detail how best to take the customer contracts forward.

“Our focus is on customers – on fulfilling their contracts – and consulting with new employees on possible options for the future.”

Peter Vassallo, chief executive of Cumbrian Seafoods, added: “While I recognise that it is a difficult time for all concerned, this transaction is in the best interests of our employees and customers.”

Sir Alan has urged any employees who have concerns or problems to contact him through the constituency office on Bondgate Within, Alnwick, on 01665 602901 or email alanbeith@berwicklibdems.org.uk Alternatively, visit his next surgery in Alnwick on Friday, December 16, between 10.30am and 11.30am. No appointment necessary.