The company completed a 90-day consultation period with the 1,700 workers at Hall’s on Wednesday (3 October) and said that despite doing everything in its power to save the plant, it had been “unable to identify any viable alternative” to closure.
“This is a very sad day for all those involved but, unfortunately, the unsustainable losses which the plant continues to suffer, combined with the challenging economic conditions across all food sectors, have left us with no alternative,” said Vion UK chairman Peter Barr.
Vion has invested tens of millions of pounds in Hall’s since buying it in 2008, but the plant is losing £79,000 a day. Barr said that a feasibility study had revealed that the investment needed to make the plant competitive would be “enormous” and “unfeasible” given the current economic climate.
The news comes days after the Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney and West Lothian Council leader John McGinty met with the Vion board in Eindhoven in a last ditch attempt to convince the company to accept the Scottish Government’s proposal that it buy the plant and lease it back to the company.
Barr said: “While we greatly appreciated this imaginative and genuine offer of support, the level of funding involved was significantly below that required to resolve the site’s major and inherent problems. Consequently, we felt it would be entirely wrong to accept public money, knowing that it would not deliver a sustainable solution for the site.”
However, he confirmed that Vion had identified several potential buyers for the plant, with proposals to be discussed at the next meeting of the Hall’s of Broxburn taskforce on October 10.
Speaking after the "disappointing" annoucement, Swinney said that the taskforce would draw up a recovery plan to help staff find alternative employment and mitigate the impact of the closure on the local economy.
“Since Vion announced the proposed closure in July, the Scottish government and its agencies have taken every action in our power to secure the future of the plant, working with the company and stakeholders. We will continue to do so over the coming days,” he said.
Scottish Rural Affairs secretary Richard Lochead admitted that the news marked an “unsettling time” for Scottish pig farmers, who provided 65% of the pigs processed at Hall’s. However, he said Scottish government was working with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) to find alternative outlets for the pigs 8,000 pigs processed through the plant each week.
Options include scaling up the pig slaughtering capacity of the existing 18 pork processing sites in Scotland.
Chairman of QMS Jim McLaren said that while it was a “major blow” for the highly skilled Broxburn staff and a “black day” for the Scottish pig industry, he was confident that the country’s pork sector would adapt and survive.
“History has repeatedly shown that one of the great strengths of the Scottish pig industry is its farmers’ ability to adapt and respond strongly in the face of challenge. This professional industry has proved its capacity to exceed customer expectations by delivering top quality, efficiently-produced pigmeat time and time again,” he said.