80 jobs on the line at seafood factory

UP to 80 jobs could be lost at a troubled Amble factory, it is feared, after a formal consultation period with staff is to start.

Young’s Seafood Limited has revealed that it will be exploring proposals and possible options for the facilities at the town’s Border Laird, as well as the former Cumbrian Seafoods premises in Seaham and Whitehaven.

It follows Lion Capital’s acquisition of the customer contracts and equipment from Cumbrian Seafoods, and its Coquet Enterprise Park-based subsidiary, after the company went into administration in early December. Executives from Young’s – Lion Capital’s existing fish and seafood business – spent time at all three sites last month, talking to members of staff and reviewing operations.

However, they say the business model is not financially viable and a restructure is now needed. They have proposed the integration and servicing of customer contracts by Young’s and the movement of volume between sites.

And if, following the consultation, this proposal is implemented, it could result in the loss of up to 80 jobs at the Amble factory, as well as up to 363 posts in Seaham and 112 positions in Whitehaven.

Pete Ward, chief operating officer of Young’s, said: “We want to ensure that we deliver quality products for our customers in the most effective and efficient way.

“This is the beginning of a journey and we will draw on the knowledge and experience of the employees at the sites. This move does not reflect on the committed and skilled teams in Seaham, Whitehaven and Amble, who are continuing to work hard through this time, which is a huge credit to the whole workforce.”

“However, it is clear from the fact that the business went into administration that the current business model is not viable.”

The news has caused concern about the future of the Amble site, and worried community leaders have said they will do all they can to fight the corner of Border Laird staff, admitting that job losses would be disastrous for the town.

It comes on the back of around 80 people being made redundant at the former Northumberland Foods factory when it closed last year, taking the total number of jobs lost at the facility to well over 200.

MP Sir Alan Beith described the current situation at Border Laird as a ‘very worrying time’ for staff.

He said: “I am holding regular discussions with the management to emphasise the skills, experience and dedication of the Amble workforce. I hope the management will be persuaded to keep production in Amble.

“The workforce will want to use the consultation period to put forward their ideas on how this can be done.

“I plan to meet employee representatives during the next week to discuss this very worrying situation.

“Keeping jobs in the Amble area is crucial to the town’s future and I know people are working hard to ensure Young’s recognise what an asset the Amble operation is.”

Councillors have also said they will do all they can to help the cause and are willing to hold talks with the company to try to bring a positive outcome to the consultation process.

Town and county councillor for Amble, Coun Robert Arckless, said he wasn’t surprised that the company was reviewing its position but said that the factory was ‘very important as far as Amble is concerned’ and hoped the workforce and the Amble community would be given a ‘fair hearing’.

Coun Jeff Watson, ward member for Amble West with Warkworth, said that job losses would be a ‘disaster’ and admitted that Amble was ‘already suffering’ from the loss of the former Northumberland Foods factory.

Amble mayor, Coun Leslie Bilboe, said he wished he had a magic wand which he could wave to fix the ‘very sad and upsetting’ situation.