Up to 300 jobs are at risk at London-based ready meals company Bakkavor Meals after it lost a contract to supply Tesco with mashed potato.
Bakkavor – one of the UK’s biggest ready meals companies, which provides prepared foods from salad to pizza and stir fries to all the major supermarket chains – has begun a 45-day consultation with 280 agency staff and 30 employees about potential job losses. It hopes to transfer about two-thirds of the staff affected to shifts making hummus, sales of which are rising.
On Monday, General Mills also confirmed 265 jobs would be lost with the closure of its factory in Berwick which makes Jus-Rol pastry and Betty Crocker cake mixes. It began producing pastry at the site more than 50 years ago.
The GMB union, which represents staff at three Bakkavor product plants in Park Royal, north-west London, said the £32m contract was equivalent to 16% of its turnover.
Bakkavor said: “For some time the business has been impacted by difficult trading conditions in a highly competitive marketplace. We believe Bakkavor Meals needs to adapt to the changing market in which it operates to ensure that it remains and, where possible, becomes more competitive to deliver future growth.”
Tony Warr, GMB’s senior organiser, said Bakkavor had proposed a new shift pattern reducing workers’ hours from 40 to 38 a week. “GMB believes it is wrong and totally unnecessary for the company to cut our members’ hours and pay,” he added.
Tesco, which is fighting off competition from the fast-growing discounters Aldi and Lidl, has been restructuring its relationships with suppliers as part of efforts to simplify its ranges and cut prices. In November, Carlsberg said it would axe up to 100 UK staff after Tesco stopped stocking some of its beer.
Tesco said: “We have been working to simplifying the range of products we offer in store. As part of this process, we’ve had to make some decisions about certain products we stock. However, we still maintain our long term partnership with Bakkavör across our fresh food category.”
Industry watchers say UK food suppliers and farmers face increasing pressure from Britain’s supermarket price war, with their profit margins cut by more than a third.
By Sarah Butler
Source: The Guardian
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