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Bernard Matthews set to axe 55 Norfolk jobs

Turkey-giant Bernard Matthews is to axe 55 staff from its cooked meats business after facing “intense pressure” from supermarket competition and soaring feed prices.

It said efficiency savings had to be made if its cooked meats division at Great Witchingham was to remain competitive.

But the firm, which recently saw the departure of a number of senior management staff, quashed concerns that it was in a state of crisis. Last night, a spokesman at the company confirmed that hourly and salaried staff in the cooked meats manufacturing division had entered a consultation process.

It comes just days after group chief executive Noel Bartram left the firm due to “health concerns” – the latest in a string of departures, which include chairman David McCall and UK managing director Rob Mears.

The announcement coincided with the appointment of David Joll as executive chairman who is spearheading a move – managed by PwC -– to secure fresh investment into the company.

A spokesman at Bernard Matthews, which employs 2,100 staff and made £2m profits on sales of £341m last year, said it was an efficiently run business that had been hit by multi-million pound feed costs.

He said: “We are not in a crisis. Bernard Matthews is an efficiently run business, but the problem is that we are facing millions of pounds of extra cost because of grain prices going up. The firm made a £2m profit last year, so this puts extra pressure on the business.

“Some of the retailers have said they will put their prices up to compensate, but Bernard Matthews has to find the remainder amid a big increase in commodity prices.

“However, the business is being as well run as it has ever been, but we are like every retailer in this climate and we have to manage that situation – and that means redundancies if our cooked meats department is to remain competitive.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Sherwood, human resources director, said: “As a company we are under intense pressure from external cost factors, such as the global price of grain.

“As a result we are constantly looking at ways of making the business better able to cope with the challenging and highly competitive economic environment.

“These structural changes are part of this process, as we continue to make the business as efficient as possible and ensure a sustainable future for the whole workforce.

“We have entered into consultation with affected staff, which may cause a degree of uncertainty for these individuals. To minimise this it is our intention to provide regular information updates throughout the process.”

Source: - 29 May 2013