Fears over Scottish salmon jobs Published: 08 November, 2006
THERE are serious fears over extensive jobs losses in the Western Isles after a massive fish farming takeover won provisional approval last night.
According to the Competition Commission, together the merging parties have a combined UK market share of fresh salmon by volume of 41 per cent.
Pan Fish already controls Fjord Scotland, formerly Wisco, the largest private employer in the Hebrides which runs the final big processing plant in the islands.
In a delayed report, the Competition Commission provisionally gave the huge merger the go-ahead, which now looks likely to be completed next month.
Concerns that jobs will go have been expressed, along with fears that Pan Fishs strategy is to rationalise, centralise, implement cutbacks and slash costs. Industry observers believe it has a surplus of processing factories with one belonging to each legacy firm.
Around 170 employees are based at Pan Fish Scotlands Cairndow factory and across 27 farm sites on Skye, Mull, Wester Ross, Argyll and Sutherland.
Up to 100 jobs are at risk if the Fjord plant at Marybank in Stornoway is shut.
Marine Harvest already ships harvested salmon from the islands by well boat to its new factory in Fort William and it is feared a simple extension of this to Fjords fish farms could shut the Stornoway factory.
Western Isles Councils vice-convenor Angus Campbell warned that recent history in salmon farming takeovers resulted in factory closures and huge redundancies.
He said: I will be opening discussions with Atle Eide, chief executive of Pan Fish ASA in Norway on Wednesday. I am looking for reassurances over their operations in the Western Isles.
Past mergers have been disastrous for us in the islands. Our biggest concern is that if we lose another factory then we will have nothing left.
The Fjord factory has had a good track record in the past two years and supplies niche markets. I will ask him to continue and build upon that.
Underlining the jobs threat is a contingency proposal allegedly prepared by Pan Fish in case the regulator stalled the merger.
Insiders say that the giant salmon farmer was planning to get rid of the Fjord assets as well as much of its own Scottish subsidiary.
When asked to respond to the job fears, Pan Fish CEO Atle Eide said: “I cannot comment on an article which for me is pure speculation.”
The full provisional findings report will be published by 13 November with public consultation ending on 4 December.
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