Bernard Matthews lays off staff

Bernard Matthews axes 130 workers after 40% drop in sales and warns of further job losses.

Around 130 workers at a Bernard Matthews site are to be laid off today in the wake of the bird flu outbreak after sales of Bernard Matthews products plummeted by 40%. The turkey giant has also warned it is preparing to lay off up to 500 workers if sales do not improve.

The T&G called on the UK government to provide compensation to the industry which has suffered detriment from the impact on sales following the outbreak at the Bernard Matthews' site, in a similar way that the Spanish and Italian governments did after H5N1 outbreaks.

The T&G also believe that any compensation agreed should include direct payments to workers afftected. Last year the European Parliament ruled to ensure national governments could make payments in such circumstances without fear of breaching international trading rules.

The 130 workers are entitled to some statutory payments and the company has agreed to grant a one-off payment of £100 to each worker.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Bernard Matthews said: "Bernard Matthews and the TGWU met today, 19th February, to discuss the impact of the H5N1 outbreak and the continuing uncertainty that has resulted in the subsequent reduction in the company's sales.

"It was confirmed that sales had dropped by 40% and as a result the company regrettably proposed to layoff 130 employees with effect from tomorrow, Tuesday 20th February. It was also confirmed that, dependent upon future sales, further layoffs of between 400-500 employees could not be ruled out.

"This was a very difficult decision to make but under the current circumstances it was the only option available following the drop in product sales. We are also doing everything we can to limit the number of job losses and we are working hard to restore consumer confidence.

"The TGWU agreed to the layoff proposal and both parties will review the situation regularly."