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Bernard Matthews confirms plans to cut 150 jobs at Norfolk headquarters

Great Witchingham hall, Bernard Matthews' headquarters.  Photo: Bill Smith

Great Witchingham hall, Bernard Matthews' headquarters. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

Up to 150 jobs have been put at risk at turkey producer Bernard Matthews in Norfolk, the company has confirmed.

Staff were told this afternoon about the proposals to cut jobs at the food company’s headquarters at Great Witchingham.

At least 90 jobs are at risk at the production factory on site, with a further 50 potentially being cut from the company’s head office functions.

Unions have confirmed they will meet with bosses on Thursday to discuss the proposals, and have refused to comment further until then.

The proposals – which are subject to a 45-day consultation period – are part of wider structural changes being made to the business, which would see chicken production stopped at Great Witchingham.

If they go ahead, the company’s Holton site in Suffolk would produce predominantly fresh and whole-bird products all year round, while the Great Witchingham site would concentrate on branded and processed products.

A spokesman for Bernard Matthews said: “The potential changes are a consequence of the company undertaking restructuring across its head office and a proposal to cease production of chicken at its Great Witchingham factory. If these changes proceed, they will create a business which is fit for future growth.

“Our focus now is to support colleagues affected and ensure we explore all options available to us to mitigate potential job losses.”

The restructure would be the first major change to the workforce since Bernard Matthews was acquired by a company owned by Ranjit Singh Boparan, the 2 Sisters food entrepreneur, who snapped up the turkey producer in September in a pre-pack administration.

That deal, which transferred the company’s assets to the new owner, but not its debts, left Bernard Matthews’ creditors £23m out of pocket.

At the time, a spokesman for the Boparan Private Office said the deal had protected the jobs of 2,000 staff, adding: “We have a proven track record in turning around businesses and we aim to make Bernard Matthews great again.”

Since then, speculation has swirled around the future of the company’s pension scheme, which has been passed to the industry-funded lifeboat the Pension Protection Fund.

Last month, trustees said they were “looking at the circumstances that led up to the insolvency and disposal”. They said the PPF’s shortfall stood at between £30m and £40m, while the total scheme deficit was around £75m.

Under PPF arrangements, around 700 members of the company’s defined benefit scheme would receive reduced payouts.

Unite regional officer Steve Harley said: “I am meeting with the Bernard Matthews management and our reps on Thursday. We won’t be commenting further until those meetings have been held.”

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