Hundreds of poultry workers in Scotland are to lose their jobs due to the closure of a plant belonging to 2 Sisters Food Group, which has been dogged by a controversy over food standards.
On Thursday, the UK’s biggest supplier of supermarket chicken said it will shut the Cambuslang factory in South Lanarkshire in August. The site employs about 450 people.
It comes after 2 Sisters said in February that 900 jobs were at risk as the company considered whether to close two West Midlands factories in Smethwick and Wolverhampton, plus Cambuslang. That announcement followed a nightmare year for the company, including a Guardian and ITV undercover investigation that prompted production to be suspended for five weeks last autumn at the group’s West Bromwich plant.
In a statement confirming the closure of Cambuslang, the company said: “This is not a decision we take lightly. Since day one, we have been very open on the big challenges the factory faces.
“In fact, we have been trying extremely hard to reverse the position for a considerable period of time. We have invested several million pounds since 2014 and expanded by taking on more people, yet it is still a heavily lossmaking operation.
“We have tried every turnaround option available to us for several years, ranging from cost-reduction measures to an attempt to grow the business organically. It has made little difference.”
The group said it was “trying hard to find openings both inside and outside the business, so we’re hopeful compulsory redundancies can be kept to a minimum”.
It has previously said that alongside the factory closures, 2 Sisters has plans to create 915 jobs at other plants around the UK, including 250 at another Scotland factory in Coupar Angus.
The undercover reports led to an investigation into 2 Sisters by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which highlighted “several process weaknesses and regulatory failures”.
The footage shot at 2 Sisters’ West Bromwich chicken plant showed poultry being dropped on the floor and returned to the production line, as well as an instance of labels recording the slaughter dates of birds being changed.
The company had claimed there was an innocent explanation for changing the labels, but the FSA report concluded: “No justification for this incident of label changes could be established.”
The chicken processor denied the film showed any food safety breaches and said it had temporarily suspended production at the factory because of process failures, adding that its “internal investigation has shown some isolated instances of non-compliance with our own quality management systems”.