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The company has announced plans to close its Bury St Edmunds and Coalville sites and shift production at its Ashton plant to a four-day week

Pilgrim’s UK has announced the proposed closure of its Bury St Edmunds and Coalville sites, placing over 600 people at risk of redundancy.

The pork giant has launched a staff consultation into the plans and is also shifting production at its Ashton plant to a four-day-week working pattern, putting an additional 35 jobs at risk.

Last week, in its annual report and accounts, Pilgrim’s announced it had recorded an operating loss of £16m for the year to 26 December 2021 – as the pig sector “faced the most challenging time in its history” due to the combination of significant production cost increases, falling pig prices, a decline in demand, labour shortages and export restrictions.

However, the supplier, which is part of the JBS-owned Pilgrim’s Pride group based in the US, also stressed the business was “progressing well” with a recovery plan, which had “begun to deliver results”, and was expected to lead to growth in Q3 of this year.

But in a statement published on Tuesday, the company said the recovery plan had also identified “some sites are significantly under-utilised in terms of operational capability and capacity”, with the proposed closure of its Bury St Edmunds and Coalville sites part of a bid to ensure the company’s “operational footprint across the UK is fully optimised”. 

Pilgrim’s UK sees £16m loss but promises strong recovery

“The decision to propose the closure of our sites and put a number of roles at risk at Ashton has not been taken lightly, but is unfortunately essential to help our business recover and secure a sustainable future for all of our team members across the UK,” said Rachel Baldwin, vice president of HR for Pilgrim’s UK. 

Existing operations at Bury St Edmunds and Coalville would transfer to alternative Pilgrim’s UK sites at Corsham, King’s Lynn, Linton and Andover to ensure customers continued to receive high-quality service and products, the supplier said.

The redundancy proposals threaten around 290 employees at Bury St Edmunds and 350 employees at Coalville, along with the 35 jobs at rirsk at Ashton. 

The business will enter into collective consultation with all affected employees in the coming days following the election of employee representatives. During this process, employees would be given the option to apply for transfer to alternative sites within the Pilgrim’s UK network, it said.

“Clearly, this announcement will have major implications, not just for our sites, but the local communities surrounding them,” added Baldwin.

“We will do everything we can to minimise the impact of these proposals and work closely with local authorities and agencies to support our team members through what we know will be an extremely difficult period.”