May 21 2013 Latest news:
By John Elworthy
Monday, March 18, 2013
AN independent Wisbech councillor tonight revealed she has written to Prince Charles to enlist his support to stop Moy Park moving up to 300 chicken production jobs to Grantham.
“The Prince knows Wisbech, attends church services nearby and I will be asking for any support he might be willing to give,” said Councillor Virginia Bucknor, at the forefront of the campaign to keep the jobs in the town.
“I believe anything is worth at least trying”.
She said she was encouraged to enlist Royal help after reading Moy Park’s website which says they “support the Prince’s Countryside Fund”.
Cllr Bucknor said she insisted on attending a meeting at Moy Park in Wisbech today between officials of Fenland Council and executives from the Irish based company.
“I wanted to satisfy myself and assure residents that everything possible was being considered,” she said.
“The directors pointed out that with ever-increasing demand for price reductions, they had to work to economy of scale and the Grantham site was significantly larger and Wisbech had been making a loss for some time.”
Cllr Bucknor said she was assured all 314 workers under threat at Wisbech could be employed at their Anwick site.
“This is 45 minutes away, near Spalding operating on similar lines to Wisbech,” she said. “This is of course not ideal for many employees, particularly those who don’t drive. Only five employees have been taken to visit the Anwick site to date so I hope that other employees who express an interest can see the feasibility of the travel bearing in mind the 12 hour shift pattern.”
Cllr Bucknor said she has asked council officials to see if some sort of subsidised transport could be laid on and possibly promotion of car sharing.
“Moy Park advised they have made significant investment over the years in Wisbech so there was no view expressed with regard to closing the site completely,” she said.
“The Wisbech site director stated he was actively seeking new business, with different products, in order that this comparatively small factory (by their standards) could remain operational in the long term.”
Lib Dem councillor Dave Patrick said: “It is not just the jobs lost at Moy Park but the possible loss of other local jobs in the industry’s that support them.”
He said: “I will more than likely see first hand the devastation caused to families whose members lose their jobs since my son is an employee of Moy Park. Not only could he lose his job but he could also become the victim of huge benefit cuts being inflicted on the unemployed.”
He said councillors should be “rolling up our sleeves and seeing what can be done from the outset to preserve what few precious jobs we have in this town.”
Unite union official Mark Plumb said the suddenness of the jobs being axed had come as a surprise and the company “had given no indication”.
Mr Plumb said: “This has come as an enormous shock to all at Wisbech.”
He said his union’s aim was to keep “a sustainable option left in Wisbech if we have to concede work transfers to Grantham. We want to keep as many jobs as possible, either new jobs or by Moy Park bringing jobs in from elsewhere.”
Moy Park said they continued to consult with staff and had not set a deadline for these talks.
Council Leader Alan Melton was unavailable for comment tonight