Broxburn taskforce meeting ‘encouraging’, says minister

The Scottish finance minister described the progress in finding a solution to the potential closure of the Hall’s of Broxburn plant, as “encouraging”, but warned that the process was still at an early stage.

The comments came after a meeting on 28 July of the Broxburn taskforce, which was set up after Vion announced it was starting a consultation process with the staff at the loss-making plant.

Finance Secretary John Swinney, who chairs the taskforce, said that it was exploring all options to safeguard the 1,700 jobs at the West Lothian site and to consider other food industry opportunities. He said the taskforce would leave “no stone unturned” in its endeavours to deliver a positive result for the workforce and the community.

Scottish Enterprise’s Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service is working to identify potential process improvements and savings, while the taskforce examines the company’s finances. Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International have also been exploring options for the future of the plant and its businesses, while the taskforce conducts an Economic Impact Assessment into the potential effects of any job losses, and works to ensure the security of the pork supply chain.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead described it as a challenging time for Scotland’s pig industry, but said the taskforce was determined to work together and with Vion to find solutions to ensure the security of the pork supply chain.

He said that officials have held a series of intensive discussions with stakeholders since the news was announced.

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) chairman Jim McLaren said the timing of the potential closure was particuarly frustrating given the likely impact of new pig industry legislation, which comes into effect on 1 January 2013.
He said: “In my view, it is very possible the entire EU pig industry could look very different in a year’s time as a result of the enforcement of the Europe-wide sow stall ban. Farmers in several key pig-producing countries in Europe appear far from ready to meet this requirement and, as a result, we may well see significant restructuring taking place.”

Vion said that the meeting has provided the opportunity for further discussion with senior politicians as well as representatives of relevant agencies, but that as that it was at an early stage of the consultation process, it would be “inappropriate” to comment on progress.

Alasdair Cox, director of corporate affairs at Vion UK, said that the company was concentraing on implementing the consultation process via a series of meetings with employees and their union representatives to explain the decision and discuss the potential impact on staff and alternative to closing the plant.

>Politicians and councillors stand against Vion closure

>QMS reacts to ANM sale of meat businesses

>Backlash against second Scottish plant closure


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