Redundancies announced at threatened Cromer Crab Company

Staff at the threatened Cromer Crab Company are facing a bleak Christmas and new year after owners Young's announced it would be making redundancies next week.

The shock blow comes as further uncertainty has been cast over the beleaguered factory by Young's take over of another troubled seafood company nearly 300 miles away.

Letters of notice will be handed out to 70 staff in Cromer who are being warned the earliest they could be out of a job is January 16.

Factory bosses said the decision to make redundancies had 'not been taken lightly', but jobs had to be cut as whatever becomes of the Holt Road plant it will not be able to maintain the current number of employees.

When the factory began its 90-day consultation in September, 230 people were working on site but this number has now dropped to 198 as employees from across the pay bracket have found new jobs.

Pete Ward, Young's chief operating officer, said: 'The best case model we can see moving forward would only need about 128 people. We're committing to provide an enhanced redundancy and we will draw in support from external agencies (for those facing redundancy).

'It's a not a decision we have taken lightly and in no way is this a reflection on the work force, who have continued to work through what is an incredibly difficult time in an incredibly difficult economic climate.'

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And more questions are now being raised about the future of the iconic site after Young's parent company Lion Capital bought struggling Cumbrian Seafood after it went into administration.

Young's is now being brought in to help determine what lays ahead for the three northern factories in Amble, Whitehaven and Seaham, which Mr Ward said would undoubtedly have an effect on Cromer.

He added: 'The three new sites being brought into our estate takes the number of manufacturing (sites) up to 16. There will be duplicate capabilities and the likelihood is we will end up moving product around between sites.

'We've got a lot of uncertainty in all our sites and certainly it will clearly impact on Cromer, but it's far too early to say what any moves would be.

'We have no master plan, these things have happened very quickly.'

Mr Ward stressed the consultation at Cromer - now in its 63rd day - would continue, but the Cumbrian takeover could prolong the process.

Despite the extra uncertainty a Norfolk-based seafood company is still looking to buy the factory - and has been taking 'significant' steps to further its interest - and a second out-of-county business has also approached Young's with a view to taking it on.

Staff, meanwhile are due to meet with bosses from another local employer, believed to be chocolate manufacturers Kinnerton, for the second time to discuss possible job vacancies with their Fakenham-based business in the new year.