Factory closures to hit 850 workers

Tulip is to close three cooked meat factories in Chippenham and Chard allowing expansion to take place at other company sites. Up to 850 jobs will be lost.

A butchery facility and manufacturing plant in Chard and a slicing and packing operation in Chippenham are due for closure.

The company intends to phase the transfer of production to Tulip's factories in Kings Lynn in Norfolk, Coalville in Leicestershire, Tipton in the West Midlands and Bugle in Cornwall, meaning the Chard sites closing in early June and the Chippenham site in January next year.

Jeff Steer, managing director of Tulip Cooked Meats said: "As we are operating in a highly competitive industry, there is a continual need to increase our quality standards and reduce our costs. To do this in Chippenham and Chard would mean expanding our factory space and introducing new machinery but, unfortunately, this is not possible since each of the factories is surrounded by housing. We are therefore continuing with the expansion of our factories in Kings Lynn, Tipton, Coalville and Bugle so that they can become the most state-of-the-art operations in Europe."

He said the company very much regretted the job losses as employees had been extremely loyal and had performed to a high level.

"We will do all we can to alleviate the effects of these closures. We have a number of initiatives to help people find alternative employment locally and we will be discussing these with our staff and their representatives.

"There would be some job opportunities elsewhere within the Tulip Group and every effort would be made to redeploy those affected" said Mr Steer. It is understood the move to close the three factories is not associated with supply of pigmeat but is part of a programme of reinvestment aimed at strengthening the UK processing base.

The Tulip Group manufacturing operation specialises in processed pork products in the fresh meat, cooked meat, bacon, sausages and canned goods sectors. The company has 22 sites throughout England, employing approximately 8,000 people.

"In the meantime, our customers can be assured that we will continue to supply high quality products."

A consultation phase will follow when details of the proposal will be discussed with staff and their representatives.

Earlier this month Tulip announced its bacon slicing plant in Launceston would close in April with the potential loss of 96 jobs. Factories in Bodmin, Bugle and Redruth will take up the slack in production.