500 jobs are axed as Birds Eye shuts plant

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The Independent Online

More than 1,000 workers in two separate plants are to be laid off - prompting renewed union accusations that it is "too easy" to sack British employees.

Up to 500 Birds Eye workers suffered the "curse of the venture capitalists" with the news that their plant in Hull was to close and production switched to Germany.

And the US-owned cash machine manufacturer NCR announced that 500 staff would be axed at its factory in Dundee and production shifted to Hungary, India and China.

Production at the frozen foods factory, owned by the private-equity firm Permira, was halted yesterday and employees given the grim news. The GMB general union estimated that about 600 jobs would be lost at the plant, which produces fish fingers, fish cakes and frozen peas, although Permira said there would be 490 redundancies.

John Wilson, a senior GMB official, accused Permira of "cynicism", claiming the firm had reneged on guarantees over jobs given when it bought Birds Eye from Unilever last year for £1.1bn.

The Hull factory, set to close in September, is in the constituency of Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education and former postal workers' leader. "Unfortunately, workers in Mr Johnson's constituency have now been hit by the curse of the venture capitalists," he said.

GMB complained that venture capitalists had favourable tax arrangements on interest payments, even though they "destroyed" the livelihoods of workers.

Management blamed excess capacity in its supply chain, particularly fish, for the decision to close the factory and switch production to Bremerhaven in Germany and Lowestoft in Suffolk.

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