THIRTY-ONE jobs have been axed at a troubled Amble food factory.
Young’s Seafood Limited has made 17 employees at Border Laird compulsorily redundant.
A further 14 members of staff have taken voluntary redundancy. It follows the discovery earlier this year of serious product quality issues in the fish cakes produced at the site and the company has said it has ‘no viable alternative’ to transferring their production to Grimsby in the short-term.
But the consultation process on the overall future of the Coquet Enterprise Park-based factory is on-going and options for langoustine processing at the facility are being reviewed.
Determined councillors, as well as MP Sir Alan Beith, have vowed to do all they can to fight for the remaining 45 jobs at the site.
Pete Ward, chief operating officer of Young’s Seafood, said: “This is not a decision that has been taken lightly. The team here at Border Laird has put a lot of effort into exploring this issue and options for production of fish cakes.
“They have worked hard during this challenging time and are a huge credit to the whole workforce.
“However, we have to ensure we have a sustainable plan in place to service the fish-cake customer contracts. Our priority is to ensure that the employees affected by this get the support they need and we will work closely with them, alongside local agencies and other key stakeholders.”
The cuts were discussed at length with the employees’ joint consultative group and the business accepted volunteers, prior to instigating compulsory redundancies.
Last Friday was the earliest possible leaving date and the Gazette has been told that all of those to go will have left by the end of this week.
A formal consultation process started in January to explore proposals and possible options for the facilities at the former Cumbrian Seafoods sites in Seaham and Whitehaven and subsidiary Border Laird, which is ongoing.
It followed the acquisition of the customer contracts and equipment by Lion Capital, which owns Young’s Seafood, from Cumbrian Seafoods after the company went into administration in December.
The Amble job losses have been met with disappointment but the fight will continue to try to save the remaining positions and keep the factory open.
Sir Alan said: “I am meeting workers at the Border Laird factory in Amble again tomorrow and have been in close contact with Young’s managers.
“The loss of these jobs, even if only in the short-term, will hit local families hard.
“I will continue to do all I can to make the case to Young’s that jobs must stay in Amble where we have a skilled and dedicated workforce.”
Mayor of Amble, Coun Leslie Bilboe, said: “It is very, very sad.
“ I am hoping that not all the jobs will have to go at the end of the day and they will keep the factory open, obviously with a lower number of staff.
“I just don’t want it to shut permanently because once it shuts they will never be able to return to it. I am hoping to have a meeting with Pete Ward as soon as possible.”
Amble town and county councillor Robert Arckless admitted he was ‘disappointed’ with the decision.
He added: “I know the county council has tried really hard to offer support.
“We have tried on a couple of occasions to meet Young’s and on both occasions it didn’t happen but to be fair to them they have kept us informed of what is going on.
“People losing their jobs is really sad, particularly given the very difficult climate we are in, but we have to be realistic and accept that the situation could have been even worse.
“The fact that the company is looking to maintain a presence in Amble and hopefully develop in the future gives us some grounds for optimism.”
Jeff Watson, ward member for Amble West with Warkworth, added: “It is very disappointing about the fish cakes but I think they have made their mind up about that, with the sad loss of jobs.
“But we are trying to maintain some employment in Amble where there seems to be potential, perhaps, for keeping some production there.”