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Bernard Matthews to lay off up to 500 workers

by 5m Editor
20 February 2007, at 11:20am

UK - Up to 500 Bernard Matthews workers could be laid off after an outbreak of bird flu led to a 40 per cent slump in poultry sales.

Miles Hubbard, a regional industrial organiser for the Transport and General Workers Union, said the temporary lay-offs from its Norfolk processing site would give the company "some breathing space" to recover lost sales. "We are hopeful that things will turn around in coming weeks," Mr Hubbard said.

The decline in sales comes in the wake of an outbreak of the H5N1 virus at Bernard Matthews's Suffolk poultry farm in early February and the culling of 159,000 birds.

Some 130 workers at Bernard Matthews's Norfolk site will today stop working for 20 days. The company said further lay-offs are possible.

Bernard Matthews said: "Dependent upon future sales, further lay-offs of between 400-500 employees [can] not be ruled out. This was a very difficult decision to make but under the current circumstances it was the only option available following the drop in product sales."

The TGWU has asked the government to provide workers with compensation. European poultry farmers were offered as much as £45m last year in one-off compensation by the European Union.

Workers who are laid off will receive one-off payments of £100 from Bernard Matthews.

Source: Financial Times

5m Editor