'Help on the way' for turkey staff

A Euro-MP promised last night that help was on the way for Bernard Matthews workers who had been laid off after the bird flu outbreak at Holton, in Suffolk.

A Euro-MP promised last night that help was on the way for Bernard Matthews workers who had been laid off after the bird flu outbreak at Holton, in Suffolk.

Some 165 staff have been laid off by the company in the past fortnight, mostly from its Great Witchingham units. They do not know whether they will have jobs to return to.

Now, a European-funded programme called Response to Redundancy is being put in place to help them with advice, training, CVs and job applications. A task force from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) is likely to be set up specifically to deal with the layoffs at Bernard Matthews.

Norfolk and Suffolk Labour MEP Richard Howitt said: "With the Transport and General Workers' Union, we have drawn up a proposal for a task force to be set up.

"The numbers laid off, 200 possibly rising to 500, are a very big economic shock to this region. I have spoken to EEDA and they have agreed in principle. I cannot say this is the answer to all the problems. There are clearly people in immediate need, and to them these are just promises."

The union is fighting for the workers affected to be paid compensation, as happened after bird flu outbreaks in Spain and Italy.