Birds Eye ends fish production at Hull Published: 02 July, 2007
The last fish finger has rolled off the production line at Birds Eye’s Hull fish production plant
BIRDS eye has ended fish production at its Hull plant – more than two months before the planned closure date.
The last fish fingers and other fish related products have rolled off the production line and more than 300 staff have left the site, although they are officially on pay for several more weeks yet.
The historic move means that for the first time in over 50 years, Birds Eye will not be making fish products on the Humber. The Grimsby plant, where it all began in the 1950s when the Smethurst frozen fish factory began producing under the then new Birds Eye label, closed more than two years ago with the loss of 600 jobs.
A similar number will lose their jobs at Hull when the factory gates are shut for the last time in September. A company spokesman said a further 350 full and part time staff were staying on for the pea harvest, which is about to get under way and will last for the next two months, although the prolonged wet weather and floods that have hit north Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire could extend that period.
The Hull factory became a casualty in January, just a few months after the company was sold by Unilever to the private equity group, Permira in a deal that sparked off a tidal wave of attacks on the entire private equity industry.
The company was accused by unions and politicians of asset stripping and sacrificing jobs at the expense of profits. But Birds Eye said there was too much over capacity within the company and the Hull site was too small to be fully competitive.
Local MP and now Health Secretary, Alan Johnson led a campaign to save the site, but the workforce eventually voted to accept Birds Eye’s redundancy package, which included up to 18 months pay for many people.
Fish production is now being transferred to Bremerhaven in Germany, where its sister company, Iglo Frozen Foods, has a large plant, to its last remaining factory at Lowestoft, where several new jobs have been created.
The jobs have been welcomed by the unions as a positive move, but they are still worried over the long term future of the site at the once thriving Suffolk fishing port.
The Transport and General Workers Union said it hoped that production at Lowestoft would continue for many years to come, but it was well aware that in manufacturing there was no such thing as jobs for life these days. Until the Hull closure was announced many Lowestoft workers feared for the future of their factory.
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