‘Worrying time’ for Bernard Matthews workers as owners seek possible sale

Bernard Matthews is up for sale. Image: Bernard Matthews

Bernard Matthews is up for sale. Image: Bernard Matthews - Credit: Archant

Union Unite said it was a 'worrying time' for Bernard Matthews employees, who were awaiting news of a possible sale of the company.

The union called for clarity for the 2,000-strong workforce, after the company's owners Rutland Partners appointed PwC to look for possible buyers.

Unite, which represents about 450 of the 2,000-strong workforce, said it would be raising its concerns with management at the company's Great Witchingham headquarters on Friday July 15.

Unite regional officer Steve Harley said: 'It is a worrying time for our members and we will be seeking clarity on what this means for the company and the workers when we meet management.

'Unite recognises that Bernard Matthews is in a very competitive marketplace with profit margins being squeezed. This issue is one for the management's marketing and sales team to address as a matter of urgency.

'Our members are dedicated and hardworking, and have contributed to the company's long-standing success with its iconic name – and Unite will do everything possible to support them during this period of uncertainty.'

The Bernard Matthews has refused to comment, but did not deny the reports that Rutland Partners were exploring options.

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Employees were told yesterday that PwC had been appointed.

In the email, Rutland Partners' chief executive Alan Jamieson said there had been 'disappointing results' over the past year.

The letter sent to staff said: 'This does not affect the internal operation of the business.

'Neither does it reduce in any way Rutland's support for the BM management team as it continues to strengthen and improve the business following the disappointing results achieved over the last year or so.'

It comes after the company confirmed in April it would be cutting 30 jobs at its bases in Norfolk and Suffolk, and subsequent reports a month later suggesting financial difficulties were delaying payments to suppliers.

At the time, a spokesman for the company dismissed the speculation, and said: 'Bernard Matthews is a sound, well-run company and it's very much business as usual for the organisation.'

The poultry producer was bought three years ago by Rutland Partners.

More than £20m was injected into the business when they came in to turn around the fortunes of the company.

And last February, a £500,000 injection was given to creating a new 'performance house' at a farm near Foulsham, outside Fakenham, which would allow more detailed control and monitoring of the bird's environmental conditions.

In January, Bernard Matthews posted pre-tax losses of £5.2m for the year to June 28, 2015, though it narrowed losses from the previous year's figure of £9.9m. Sales fell by £30m to £276m.

The company, which is based in Great Witchingham, has become a brand synonymous with Norfolk since it was founded in the 1950s, and made a firm favourite with its 'bootiful' marketing campaigns.

•Do you work at Bernard Matthews or have any information? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

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