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Avana Bakeries site to close, despite lifeline rumours

By Rod Addy+

07-Apr-2014
Last updated on 08-Apr-2014 at 12:37 GMT

2 Sisters Food Group has confirmed the closure of its Avana Bakeries site near Newport in Wales, threatening 650 jobs, denying claims it was close to securing substantial new orders.

2 Sisters first announced proposals to shut the facility in February after the loss of a major Marks & Spencer supply deal, which represented 85% of the site’s business.

It then launched a 45-day consultation with the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), employees and management to try to avoid compulsory redundancies. At the time it said it was seeking new contracts to replace the lost revenue.

However, a company spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk it had failed to do so, despite rumours that there was the chance of a lifeline from Sainsbury that potentially could have filled most of the hole.

“We’d never disclose or comment on customer contract numbers or potential deals in any circumstances,” the spokesman said, although he dismissed the rumours.

‘Limited seasonal business’

However, he added: “There’s some limited seasonal business we’ll be doing in the next few months, so the site will keep going for several months yet. At least this means we can do our upmost to redeploy and/or help colleagues to find work outside the business.”

Gary Johnston, organising regional secretary for the BFAWU, told FoodManufacture.co.uk confirmation of the closure was “very disappointing”.

He complained that workers at the factory were confused by mixed messages and “don’t know whether they are coming or going”. “One moment staff are told ‘yes, things are safe’, the next they are not.”

He said 2 Sisters had said it was looking to limit the number of compulsory redundancies, but added: “Well if you are closing a plant everybody is going to be made redundant.”

2 Sisters said it would manage a phased closure of the plant, with operations finally ceasing there this summer.

“It is with much regret that we can confirm that following a 45-day consultation period, we are closing our Avana Bakeries site in Newport,” the company announced in a statement.

‘Explored all the options’

“During the consultation, we have fully explored all the options available to us since losing what was the principal customer contract for the site. Sadly, we have been unable to find a way to keep the site viable.

“Our priority now is to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies through seeking volunteers and redeployment elsewhere. We will also be working with the Welsh government, Job Centre Plus and Staffline to seek opportunities for our colleagues outside the business.”

One of the potential offers under discussion was for workers to transfer to 2 Sisters’ RF Brookes factory at Rogerstone, Gwent.

When proposals to close the Avana Bakeries Newport factory were first disclosed, Johnston described the plan as a “kick in the teeth”.

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