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UPDATED: Fenland Foods workers to protest

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Wednesday, 2.30pm - STAFF from Fenland Foods are to protest agains plans to close the factory with the loss of more than 700 jobs.

Wednesday, 2.30pm - STAFF from Fenland Foods are to protest agains plans to close the factory with the loss of more than 700 jobs.The factory's 730 staff were told they will lose their jobs when the Fenland Foods factory in Grantham closes in August.

Owner Northern Foods has announced that Marks and Spencer has decided to drop most of the ready meal products produced at the Swingbridge Road factory.

Members of general workers' union the GMB plan to highlight the plight of Fenland Foods staff at theri congress in Plymouth next month.

Staff also plan to protest at the Marks and Spencer AGM in July.

Northern Foods says it is in consultation with staff over plans to cease production and mothball the facility.

The company says it will seek new business for the site.

Northern Foods chief executive Stefan Barden said: "We believe that chilled foods is an attractive growth market and that our ready meals are the best in the industry.

"The Fenland facility would remain mothballed whilst we explore opportunities to secure profitable new business with other customers for the site.

"We have plans to invest in the site so that it can continue to be a leader in its market. Our immediate task is to support our loyal employees through the consultation period."

Fenland Foods general manager Kevin Hands and human resources director Catherine Davis are talking to staff about the decision yesterday morning.

Northern Foods spokesman Matt Hurst told the Journal this morning: "Obviously it's devastating news for everybody involved, including Kevin and Catherine and the rest of the senior management team because their jobs are affected as well.

"Moving some staff to other sites is a possibility, but we're not talking about moving people en masse."

The factory is expected to close on August 30 and in the meantime staff will be advised on CV writing and interview techniques to help them find new jobs.

MP for Grantham Quentin Davies said: "This is a terrible day for Grantham - it's going to be a devastating blow, not just for 700 people but also their families.

"A plant depending on a single customer is an accident waiting to happen, but I'm horrified it should happen this way, with out warning, and I shall be asking why.

"It's the worst blow that has befallen Grantham while I have been MP."

Mr Davies said he would be speaking with the directors of Northern Foods to ensure appropriate support was being given to staff.

He also said he would ensure government agencies were ready to help those made redundant find new jobs.

Staff at the plant were dismayed to hear of the plants closure today.

Eve Ashworth-Pask, 58, told the Journal: "You will find that people are shocked because it's come totally out of the blue.

"Every year the rumours come round, but nothing ever comes of it.

"The younger ones will definitely find work. At my age who's going to employ me?"

Another staff member, who did not want to be named, said: "It's going to be difficult to get another job.

"No one in there is happy - they're not going to be are they?"

Other members of staff declined to comment, saying they had been told not to speak to the press.

South Kesteven District Council leader Linda Neal said: "I'm quite shocked - that's a large number of jobs and families affected.

"For our aspirations for the town centre and the twon generally it's disappointing to lose jobs, because it affects people's lives."

South Kesteven District Council and Lincolnshire County Council member Mike Williams said: "Where are these people going to find jobs in Grantham?

"The town is coming apart at the seams."

Grantham Business Club co-chairman Wade Rowlett said: "From our point of view this is a closure that has nothing to do with the Grantham economy, but it's going to have an effect on people's spending in the town because I guess the majority of people who work there live in Grantham.

"You can only have sympathy for the personal effect that this is going to have on so many people who live in Grantham.

"The only thing I can say to Grantham employers is that there are some high quality staff there, and if you're looking for good people there will be some coming out of Fenland Foods."

Have you been affected by the closure of Fenland Foods? Call our newsdesk on 01476 562291

E-mail your news and views to comment@granthamjournal.co.uk

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