Bernard Matthews’ staff ‘let down’ over 128 job cuts

Bernard Matthews confirmed 128 job cuts, the Unite union claimed

Bernard Matthews’ workers said they felt “betrayed and let down”, after the turkey producer confirmed 128 job cuts in chicken production and management at its Great Witchingham, Norfolk site.

According to the Unite union, 69 chicken production jobs and 59 managerial jobs would be lost at Bernard Matthews’ Great Witchingham site, following the decision by the turkey producer’s new owner, Boparan Private Office, to cease all year round chicken production.

The job cuts came after Boparan Private Office implied to the union in September that the site’s 2,000 jobs were safe, Unite claimed. When the company was bought, workers were led to believe that there would be more business in chicken production, the union added.

“We are obviously disappointed by the announcement that the new owners will cease all year round chicken production at Great Witchingham,” said Unite regional officer Steve Harley.

‘Feel very let down’

“Our members, who met senior representatives of [Boparan Private Office] during the transition period, feel very let down, as these representatives indicated that investment would secure existing jobs, and there was also the opportunity to attract more chicken business to the site, so utilising existing spare capacity.

“This has clearly not happened and, therefore, many of those workers feel betrayed as they consider they were misled.”

More redundancies were planned than the 128, but some were avoided due to redeployment to other parts of the business, the union said.

“Unite accepted that difficult decisions needed to be made as the firm needs to return to profit, but we will fight to ensure that cost reductions are not simply about reducing the workforce headcount,” said Harley.

‘Suffered greatly from a lack of business strategy’

“Bernard Matthews has clearly suffered greatly from a lack of business strategy under the previous owners, and we remain hopeful that [Boparan Private Office] will work closely with Unite to ensure both profitability and job security are treated as equal priorities.”

A Bernard Matthews spokesman said: “We have completed the process and explored all options available to us to mitigate job losses.

“After discussion with colleagues and union representatives the decision was taken to cease production of chicken and to restructure the head office. These changes will enable the business to focus on what we’re best at and allow us to make things happen with agility and pace.”

Meanwhile, Bernard Matthews first revealed plans to cut up to 150 jobs in February. At the time, it said the proposed job cuts were part of a company-wide restructuring process, which would see chicken production end at the Norfolk factory, and transfer to Suffolk.

A Bernard Matthews spokesman said in February: “If these changes proceed, they will create a business which is fit for future growth. Our focus now is to support colleagues affected and ensure we explore all options available to us to mitigate potential job losses.”

Bernard Matthews job cuts – at a glance
  • 128 job cuts confirmed
  • Job cuts at Great Witchingham site
  • 69 cuts in chicken production
  • 59 cuts in management
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