Dutch giant Vion is cutting up to 380 jobs and closing a bacon processing unit in response to 'overcapacity' in the UK meat sector.

The company has begun consulting with staff at its Ashton bacon unit, with a view to closing the facility. It plans to transfer the bacon curing operation to its Malton site and slicing to Scunthorpe.

This week's announcement was not a reflection of the recession hitting the business, Vion said, but a result of both the increasingly competitive marketplace and significant overcapacity within parts of the UK meat sector.

The move would allow it to increase the focus of its plants and improve throughput and production efficiency, it added.

"The proposed changes will provide a stronger platform upon which Vion can meet the demands of the market," said corporate affairs director Alasdair Cox. "The planned changes will be supported by additional investment in the Scunthorpe and Malton operations."

Vion was currently in discussions with union representatives and would look to mitigate job losses by offering staff alternative roles within the business, the company said.

The latest announcement of a major raft of staff cuts is Vion's second this year. A restructuring of the abattoir and sliced cooked meats operations at the Malton and Haverhill pork processing plants in January led to as many as 800 jobs being lost. Haverhill's abattoir and butchery were also closed.

Vion has a number of other UK facilities handling bacon, including three sites within the Key Country Foods division.