Meat factory closure may cost 500 jobs

Closure of a Norfolk meat processing factory could lead to a loss of more than 500 jobs, it was revealed last night.

Closure of a Norfolk meat processing factory could lead to a loss of more than 500 jobs, it was revealed last night.

Staff and community leaders were left shocked on Friday after Tulip announced that it was ending the production of fresh pork and bacon at Thetford, with 350 potential redundancies.

But the company yesterday confirmed that up to a further 200 agency posts will also go as a result of the closure of the Caxton Way plant, which processes Danepak products.

The news is a fresh blow to the area's large migrant community, which is mainly used as a temporary workforce during peak periods of production.

A Tulip spokesman confirmed that as well as the redundancies of up to 350 permanent employees, agency staffing levels - which fluctuate between 70 and 200 - would be brought down to zero as a result of shifting its fresh meat operations to other UK sites.

It comes after the company blamed the ageing and costly infrastructure at its more than 40-year-old Thetford plant for a loss of money over "several years". The Tulip group's UK headquarters is also set to be transferred to Tipton in the West Midlands, with some cooked meat production, distribution, and administration remaining at Thetford.

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But despite the loss of one of the town's biggest employers, Mark Stanton, economic development and regeneration manager at Breckland Council, said Thetford had the capacity and resilience to cope.

He added that the closure was a further sign that old style "high volume, low value" manufacturing operations were struggling to sustain themselves in the region and reinforced the authority's focus towards motor sport, advanced engineering, and research opportunities in the Thetford area.

"It is a little hard to say what the economic impact will be," he said.

Mr Stanton added that the district council had implemented a "rescue tool kit" contingency plan to help manage the major closure and to support management and employees.

A Tulip spokesman added that some jobs would be available at its King's Lynn site for redundant Thetford workers and management and union representatives would be holding talks this week as part of a 90-day consultation.