FEARS are mounting for the future of workers at the Heinz factory in Dundalk following the announcement that the food giant intends to exit two European factories.
According to the spouse of one of the factory employees, Union members have been told that if the plant cannot be sold as a going concern, it will be closed.
“We have gone through this so many times. We were led to believe that everything was okay. But when Union members asked what would happen if there was no buyer for the factory, they were told it would be closed,” she said.
“The workers are living with a lot of uncertainty at the moment. It has been going on for such a long time. People would like to know what’s going to happen, one way or the other. If it does close, it will be another big blow for the town.”
In annual results declared on May 26, Heinz Chief Executive William Johnson said the company plans to “exit” five factories, including two in Europe, two in the United States, and one in the Pacific, leaving Heinz with 76 factories globally.
Mr Johnson added that the closures and resulting job losses, which he described as a “global efficiency drive” will cost e110m (US $160m). The plan allows for around 800 workers being made redundant, which would reduce Heinz’s global workforce to 1,000.
Director of Corporate and Government Affairs Heinz UK & Ireland Nigel Dickie told The Dundalk Democrat that in relation to the Dundalk-based Heinz factory, as far as he is aware, there is “no anticipated announcement as of yet”.
“Heinz will drive productivity to partially offset rapidly rising commodity costs and to become even more competitive in a challenging business environment. We need to provide the fuel for sustained growth and investment,” said Mr Dickie.
“Our plan includes exiting one factory in Poland, which is our Miedzychod factory, which we announced in April this year.
“We are evaluating potential options elsewhere in Europe. As we know, no decision can be taken in Europe until the appropriate consultation has taken place with relevant works councils, unions and employees.
“So our plans will be subject to this consultation and any necessary agreements being reached with appropriate employee representative bodies, trade unions, and works councils as required by law. Until then it would be wrong to speculate on any location.”