Poultry firm Banham Group to refund pay cut

Directors of a Norfolk poultry company which last year cut workers' pay have said they are to refund the lost wages that the staff sacrificed to preserve jobs.

Banham Group, which employs about 600 people, last year said it had entered into a 90-day consultation process with its employees to temporarily reduce pay – a cut which also affected directors – during a difficult trading period to ensure the survival of the firm.

But the company has now told the EDP that directors are to put in place a mechanism to refund the cuts for staff, relating to pay but not lost benefits, and is currently discussing the precise terms with the company's elected employee representatives.

The news comes as recently published accounts for the Attleborough-based company show that in the year ending September 2010, pre-tax profits fell from �649,867 to �352,753, while directors' remuneration had increased from just under �1.2m to more than �2.5m between 2009 and 2010 – with salaries and benefits (emoluments) for the highest paid of its five directors, increasing from �727,681 to just under �2.3m during the same period.

It also made a �2m contribution to an employer financed retirement benefit scheme.

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But the company said funding of the retirement benefit scheme had had no impact on the company's financial performance, while the emolument rises did not indicate a 'material change' in salary or bonuses paid to the director in question, whose identity has not been disclosed by the company.

Director and secretary Sarah Foulger said that since the 2010 results, the poultry industry had continued to be very volatile with major competition between the main industry players and significant price pressure being imposed by the supermarkets, but the support of staff, had, along with other efficiencies, helped place it on a stronger footing.

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'We anticipate that the current uncertain market conditions will continue for the foreseeable future, but with the support of our loyal staff and the efficiencies we have introduced the company is well placed to be a major player in the poultry sector for many years to come,' she said. 'Feed prices rose significantly during 2010/11 which impacted on profit margins as supermarkets did not increase prices to their suppliers, such as Banham, and now that feed prices have eased, supermarkets are applying significant pressure.'

She added: 'In respect of the directors' emolument figure, a substantial proportion of that sum provides for a benefit accruing under the retirement benefit scheme to the highest paid director. It is not, as it might appear, indicative of any material change to salary or bonuses paid to that director. We are obviously not able to comment on who that director is.

'The retirement benefit scheme was something which, at that time (bearing in mind these accounts relate to period ending September 2010), the company was in a position to finance and it is not something which has impacted upon subsequent results and performance.

'The recent decisions regarding the reduction in staff pay, that included directors, was based solely upon the present trading conditions that the group faces,' she said.

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