Progress in Talks over Future of Halls Plant

31 July 2012, at 10:11am

UK - Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said he was encouraged at the progress being made following the meeting this week of the taskforce established as a coordinated private/public sector response to safeguard jobs at the West Lothian food processing plant Halls of Broxburn.

The second meeting of the taskforce chaired by Mr Swinney met following a month of intensive meetings aimed at securing jobs and considering other food industry opportunities.

The taskforce was established in response to an announcement by Vion Food UK on 5 July that it was consulting on the future of the Broxburn plant, which employs 1,700 people.

The taskforce is examining the company’s finances and Scottish Enterprise’s Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service has been identifying potential process improvements and savings.

Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International have been exploring all options for the future of the plant and its businesses. The taskforce is also conducting an Economic Impact Assessment into the potential effects of any job losses, and is also working to ensure the security of the pork supply chain.

Following the meeting at Strathbrock Partnership Centre in Broxburn, Mr Swinney said: "I am encouraged by the progress the taskforce has made to date, but we are still at a very early stage in the process and it would be wrong to be complacent.

"I will continue to do everything in my power to deliver continuity and security for the people employed at the plant. I know this is a particularly worrying time for all those who work at Halls of Broxburn and their families.

"The taskforce will continue to work tirelessly with unions and management to ensure we leave no stone unturned in our endeavours to deliver a positive result for the workforce and community."

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "This is clearly a challenging time for Scotland’s pig industry, but all the taskforce members are determined to work together to find solutions.

"We have moved swiftly to work with the company to ensure the security of the pork supply chain. As the announcement was made I met with NFUS, Quality Meat Scotland and Scotland’s Pig Producers to discuss a way forward, and officials have held a series of intensive discussions with stakeholders since.

"Scotland is rightly famed for the high quality of its food and drink and Scottish pork is an important part of this – our task now is to ensure that this continues to be the case and that’s what all those involved are working to achieve."

Alasdair Cox, director of corporate affairs at VION UK, said: “Since the initial announcement about the possible closure of the Hall’s site was made our focus has been on implementing the consultation process via a series of meetings with our employees and their union representatives.

“These weekly meetings have been useful in allowing the company to explain the rationale behind the announcement and to enable discussion of the potential impact on our staff and any possible alternatives to closure of the plant.

“Weekly updates are being issued to all employees, a process which will continue as the consultation progresses.

“We have also maintained regular contact with the Scottish Government and today’s meeting of the task force team has provided the opportunity for further discussion with senior politicians as well as representatives of Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, Quality Meat Scotland and others relevant agencies.

“Given that we are still at an early stage of the consultation process it would be inappropriate to comment further on progress at this time.“