More than 850 people set to lose jobs following announced closure of Chard food factory

211020-Oscar Mayer wide-ITV News West Country
More than 850 jobs are at risk at ready-meals manufacturer Oscar Mayer Credit: ITV News West Country

More than 850 people in a Somerset town are at risk of redundancy - after managers announced plans to shut down a factory that makes ready-meals.

Oscar Mayer - a Chard-based firm - announced on Thursday 22 October their factory is no longer viable and a consultation period with staff members will begin.

The food producer currently employs 860 people from the local community, each of whom is now at risk of redundancy.

The consultation period is set to begin on 10 November and the company says it will last for at least 45 days, after which a final decision on the future of the company in Chard will be made.

The announcement follows the recent removal of the evening shift at the factory which was a bid to improve efficiency in light of the pandemic.

However, the manufacturer says due to the continuing negative impact of the pandemic, "more significant action is now required to protect its long-term future".

The company has looked at alternatives in an attempt to save jobs, such as developing alternative sites in the area but management deemed it unsuitable for future needs.

Francois Legrain, Chief Executive of Oscar Mayer, said: “Consulting our colleagues on a potential closure has been a desperately difficult decision to come to.

“Oscar Mayer fully recognises its responsibility to the local community and sincerely regrets the distress and disappointment this move may cause.  This closure, should it occur, is no reflection on the talent and capability of our dedicated staff, who have worked exceptionally hard to help us increase efficiency, for which we remain extremely grateful.

“I only hope it is of some reassurance that every measure will be taken to assist our colleagues in their search for meaningful alternative employment, should the time come."

A spokesperson from the GMB Union said:

"This is a hammer blow for all the families reliant on these jobs, as well as all the supply lines and local businesses in Chard that rely on this anchor employer.

"This can't go on. What we're seeing is yet more good quality manufacturing jobs relocating away from a rural area desperately in need of them.

"We've called numerous times for the government to get round the table with unions and employers and develop a plan for manufacturing to stop this sad story being repeated across the country. The government needs to act or this will just keep happening.

"We've begun the process of contacting local stakeholders, including MP's and councillors to try and find a future for the site and our members. Have no doubt we'll be supporting them all the way".