Ranjit Boparan has promised that there will be no redundancies at Bernard Matthews following the pre-pack deal to buy the struggling turkey giant.
The reassurances by the Boparan Private Office that the jobs of the 2,000-strong workforce are safe have been welcomed by Unite today (21 September).
Bernard Matthews will also start processing chickens as well as turkeys to fill spare capacity at its sites, the union said.
Boparan’s private investment vehicle, which purchased the assets, also told Unite it would invest more in the iconic brand to restore it to its former position.
Unite, the union which represents 800 of the 2,000 strong Bernard Matthews workforce, met with representatives of the private office at the turkey processor’s headquarters in Great Witchingham, Norfolk today.
“We had productive talks today and we were given guarantees that all current agreements will be honoured,” Unite regional officer Steve Harley said.
“It was made clear that the new owner wishes to restore Bernard Matthews to its former position as a highly profitable business that it enjoyed before the current financially troubled period.
“This would be achieved by greater investment in the business, cost savings, and utilising the present spare capacity at Bernard Matthews to process chicken and not just turkeys.
“We are reassured by the pledge that there will be no reduction in the workforce headcount and that the company is looking forward to a full order book for this Christmas.”
The Boparan Private Office completed the acquisition in a pre-pack deal – a controversial arrangement where all the assets are purchased but none of the liabilities – after Deloitte were appointed as administrator to Bernard Matthews.
Bernard Matthews was left on the point of collapse after years of heavy losses and declining sales. Attacks by Jamie Oliver over the Turkey Twizzlers range, an outbreak of bird flu in 2007 and allegations of staff mistreating turkeys damaged the brand, leading to losses of £20.4m in 2012/13.
Private equity firm Rutland Partners invested in Bernard Matthews in 2013 but failed to turn around its fortunes.
Bernard Matthews’ defined benefit scheme, which is widely thought to have a deficit of £16m, is now in the hands of the industry-backed Pension Protection Fund following the pre-pack.
Unite added that the Bernard Matthews final salary pension scheme was closed in 2004 and that its members presently have an alternative pension scheme which was unaffected by yesterday’s takeover.
“Going forward, we wish to work with the new management team to achieve the goal of an expanding enterprise and maintaining Bernard Matthews as a major employer in East Anglia,” the union said