Workers at two of Fox’s biscuits plants are to face continued job uncertainty following parent company Northern Foods’ announcement to delay the decision over the location of its proposed supersite.
Northern Foods plans to merge its Fox’s biscuits plants in Batley and Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, and build a new £40m super-factory at one of those sites. But the firm has announced it would hold off on making a decision for another year, leaving employees facing uncertainty.
The decision had been expected this March, but the current financial climate has forced Northern Foods to put back the deadline, despite announcing a group underlying sales increase of 8.8% in Q4 and 4.7% for the 52 weeks to 28 March 2009.
The firm said: “All aspects of this project are being carefully assessed to ensure that the optimal decision is made for all stakeholders in the business,” adding that an update is expected in the final months of the next financial year.
“This prudent decision will enable us to rigorously evaluate all the available options before committing investment,” said Stefan Barden, chief executive of Northern Foods. “We fully recognise the continued uncertainty this will unfortunately bring to our loyal employees and we remain committed to regular communication.”
Union body Unite issued a statement in support of its members at the Uttoxeter site on the same day Northern Foods made the announcement.
“Over 800 jobs hang on this decision. Our campaigning has played a big part in the decision to delay any announcement for a year and while the door remains open, we will be fighting for our future,” commented Claire Boot, Unite convenor.
“Initially, workers felt very let down by the decision. It means another year of anxiety and uncertainty.” However, there is now another year of work at the very least and another year to fight to be chosen as the ‘supersite’, she added.