Helpline for Bernard Matthews staff

A helpline has been set up for Bernard Matthews workers affected by layoffs at its factories in Norfolk.

A helpline has been set up for Bernard Matthews workers affected by layoffs at its factories.

The company has set up the helpline for the 130 workers who are off work for four weeks and uncertain whether they will have jobs to go back to.

But what the helpline cannot do is tell them what their future with the company is. Yesterday a Bernard Matthews spokesman said that no decisions had been made about job losses at the company.

On Monday it announced it was laying off 130 workers from Great Witchingham for four weeks - the maximum time before they can claim redundancy - and that 400 to 500 further layoffs might be in the pipeline at unspecified locations.

The company's sales have slumped by 40pc since the outbreak of H5N1 bird flu outbreak at the farm in Holton, near Halesworth, which led to 160,000 turkeys being slaughtered.

The district councils around the three factories at Great Witchingham are rallying round to help workers. Breckland, Broadland and South Norfolk councils are in touch with each other and are "closely monitoring the situation".

Most Read

A Breckland Council spokesman said: "Currently we are aware of 130 layoffs but we realise there may be significantly more if markets for poultry products are further damaged by recent events.

"We will be offering assistance to Bernard Matthews and should they require it Breckland has a business rescue toolkit plan of action in place ready to assist should it be needed.

"The council has set up a senior management team to assess the impact of the layoffs on the local economy across Breckland and to offer help to individuals in financial difficulties.

"Resident employees throughout Breckland may be entitled to council tax or housing benefits. They can ring the council's benefits inquiry hotline on 01362 656 872."

Meanwhile a man is still in hospital with back injuries after being crushed in an accident at the farm at Holton. The man, who was crushed between a forklift truck and a crate during the cull of turkeys on February 5, is in the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital.

A Bernard Matthews spokesman said: "We take the safety of our employees very seriously and we are investigating how this accident happened."

Miles Hubbard, regional industrial organiser for the T&G union, said that if the man was a union member it would represent him in a compen- sation claim, although the accident did not mean the company was in a state of chaos.