Hundreds of jobs at risk at Ashton site

MORE THAN 500 people, some of whom use it to support the family, are at risk of losing their job after a major Ashton pig processing site was earmarked for closure.

Pork firm Pilgrim’s UK says its facility on Bow Street may shut its doors as the sector ‘continues to face the most significant challenges in its history.’

It added the move is part of measures to ‘fully optimise its operational footprint across the UK and return to growth.’

Pilgrim’s will now enter into a period of collective consultation with site union and employee representatives.

Pilgrim’s site in Ashton-under-Lyne

But the thought of being out of work has left many fearing for the future and the 542 jobs that would be lost would be a major blow for Tameside’s economy.

The 70-year-old Ashton site, one of the biggest pig processing plants in the UK, lost its China export licence in 2021.

The UK sow herd has contracted by about 15 per cent and loss-making farmers leaving the industry because of a sustained period of high production costs and lower pig prices.

Existing operations would be transferred to Pilgrim’s UK facilities in Spalding, Lincolnshire, Westerleigh in Bristol and Bromborough on the Wirral.

The firm adopted a three-day working week for about 100 staff in its abattoir section as recently as April.

The site has been targeted by animal activists over the years

And Rachel Baldwin, vice president of human resources, said: “The decision to propose the closure of our Ashton site has not been taken lightly and we have made every effort to explore alternative options.

“A key part of our work to return to growth includes ensuring we fully optimise our operational footprint and the age and location of Ashton within a densely populated area means that there is no feasible opportunity to modernise or grow the site.

“As a result, these proposals are unfortunately essential to ensure a sustainable future for our team members across the UK.”

The company says full support will be provided to anyone at risk of redundancy, including support in seeking alternative roles both inside and outside of its organisation.

Pilgrim’s UK reported losses of £16 million in 2021 and has also challenging financial circumstances in 2022.

The factory was previously known as Tulip, who as recently as 2018 completed an £8 million investment int the site.

But a £290 million buyout in 220 saw it changed to Pilgrim’s.

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