Brexit and inflation blamed over ‘devastating’ plans to close Llangefni 2 Sisters factory
Brexit and inflation have been blamed as two of the key factors behind plans to close a poultry factory on Anglesey.
The 2 Sisters Group announced this morning that its Llangefni site could be shut down, putting 730 jobs at risk.
In a statement, the firm said the facilities were “old” and “not sustainable”, highlighting the significant level of investment required.
Politicians and union representatives have reacted to the news with shock and dismay, with calls for urgent intervention from central government.
The issue was raised in the House of Commons this afternoon by Ynys Môn Virginia Crosbie.
In response, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “very sorry” to hear about the potential losses and that his thoughts were with the workers affected and their families.
The Conservative leader said: “I know how distressing that will be for them. I am pleased to say that the Department for Work and Pensions has procedures in place to support communities when situations like this arise.
“We will work very closely with her to do what we are doing everywhere across the country, which is providing good well-paid jobs for everyone, because that is the best way to build a happy and secure life.”
There was also a lengthier debate in the Senedd after an emergency question was tabled by the island’s MS Rhun ap Iorwerth.
The Plaid Cymru representative raised concerns about the impact of the plans on the workforce and wider community and expressed fears that Anglesey could become “a holiday and retirement island”.
He said the company’s chief executive had cited Brexit and the impact on trading conditions as one of the main causes behind the factory’s potential closure.
He said: “It’s difficult to put in words how much of a blow this would be if the factory were to close.
“There are over 700 people working there at the heart of Anglesey, a high percentage living very locally, close enough to walk to work.
“Losing those jobs would permeate through the whole community of Llangefni and beyond and I’m thinking about everyone who has been hit by this, both workers and their families. Of course, I know many of them.
“The reasons given to me by the 2 Sisters chief executive for coming to this decision were Brexit, inflation, workforce shortages, COVID, energy prices and he said there were elements around the condition, the size and the location of the factory itself too.
“We can see that those overarching factors are ones directly under the control of UK Government and we have to look to UK Government for a response here.
“The Prime Minister said this lunchtime that the DWP has procedures it can put in place but let’s be quite straight here with a scale of this.
“The timing of the consultation to close in a matter of weeks, leaves hardly any time to seek alternatives.
“We’re going to need a damn sight more than a task force and retraining for staff to look for other opportunities.
“I will not accept the fate of Ynys Môn being just a holiday and retirement Island.
“That’s not to knock tourism which has a very important role to play but a community totally reliant on that ceases to operate like a normal community.
“At the heart of this are the people, my constituents, facing losing their work in the midst of a cost of living crisis.”
In response, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said he had been told of the same problems behind the closure plans by the company.
He also highlighted the short timescale for the consultation over the decision.
He said: “I have the same understanding from conversations today that Brexit and the change in trading conditions is a material factor, as is inflation generally, energy specifically and there has been a change to the energy support for businesses.
“The nature and the way of the communication of the decision leaves a very short window.
“They’ve indicated that they expect to make a decision and then if they’re going to go ahead with the indication on closure, it would happen by the end of the financial year.
“That means that after the consultation is over there are literally a handful of weeks before that would happen
“I’m concerned about a range of consequences for that. There are 700 workers, many of whom are very local.
“What that means is those people of working age won’t have work and the potential for people to stay on the island requires an economic future.
“We will work with anyone and everyone to try to secure the best possible outcome.
“We want to see if it is possible to save the jobs. If it isn’t possible to do that, what are the next best alternatives and what will be the future of the site?”
Regional MS for North Wales Sam Rowlands described the situation as “extremely serious”.
The Conservative politician called on the Welsh Government to accelerate its plans for economic investment on Anglesey in light of the plans.
Mr Gething said the Labour government would work “at the fastest pace possible” to deliver economic benefits for the island.
However, he that the short timescales involved meant many would not be ready in time.
He added that the issues faced by 2 Sisters and other businesses were the “real term consequences” of UK Government decision.
In a statement issued earlier today regarding its plans to close the factory, the company said: “Following a recent review of our UK poultry division, we need to make operational changes to help us overcome the continuing challenges facing the food manufacturing sector.
“Regrettably, the review shows our Llangefni factory is not sustainable. It is old, one of our smallest sites and lacking space to be efficient.
“The cost to produce here is higher, and it would require significant investment to bring it up to the standards of our other factories. Our products can be made more efficiently elsewhere across our estate.
“Therefore our proposal is to cease operations at the factory, putting the site at risk of closure.
“Clearly this will be extremely disappointing news for our Llangefni colleagues, and it is no reflection of their continuing hard work and commitment.
“However, we have a duty to remain competitive and protect our wider business on which many thousands of people depend.
“Our key priority now is to hold meaningful consultations with all affected employees and their representatives and explore the full range of options before making any final decisions about the closure of the site.
“These options will include all redeployment opportunities in the region with the help of all relevant support agencies, both inside and outside the business.”
Union representatives have vowed to fight against the attempt to close the factory.
Peter Hughes, Unite Wales regional secretary said: “The closure of 2 Sisters would be a catastrophic blow to the economy and local communities of Anglesey and North Wales as a whole.
“The company has dropped this bombshell on its workforce without consultation and without any notice whatsoever. To say that our members are outraged at the way they have been treated is an understatement.
“Unite will fight to reverse this decision. Urgent talks are scheduled for tomorrow and 2 Sisters have big questions to answer. Every possibility of reversing this decision will be explored by the union.
“We intend to force the company to reconsider and we will demand that the Welsh Government joins the campaign to save the plant. This decision cannot be accepted.”
Anglesey Council leader Llinos Medi said: “This is another devastating blow for the island with 730 people employed at the 2 Sisters plant.
“Those employees and families impacted are our priority and immediate concern, especially with the cost-of-living crisis continuing to bite.
“We will work with the company and partners to ensure that they receive the support they deserve.
“Now is also the time for urgent and decisive action from both UK and Welsh Governments – both of which can facilitate more investment and much needed jobs on the island.”
Main image: “2 Sisters Food Group” by Lewis Clarke is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
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