NORTH East Lincolnshire Council was holding an urgent meeting with Icelandic Seachill over the weekend to try to establish the scale of job losses at the big Grimsby seafood processor.
The company said last week that a large number of posts were under threat after it announced Marks & Spencer was taking a £60 million processing contract elsewhere.
The 1,400 strong workforce was given the bad news in a memo earlier this week.
Rob Walsh, chief executive of North East Lincolnshire Council, and Angela Blake, director of economy and growth at the authority, not only met the Icelandic management but they are also hoping to talk to Five Star Fish, which has picked up part of the contract to see how many extra people it will need.
There is still no official figure on the precise number of jobs which may go, but some estimates have suggested it could be up to 300.
Five Star Fish, whose Grimsby operation is very close to Icelandic Seachill’s three factories, is taking over the fish coating business, thought to be worth almost two thirds of the £60 million contract.
The prawn cocktail business transfers to Greencore, with the en-croute orders going to Freshcook, owned by Bakkovar, another Icelandic company.
Also, there is no indication when the contract transfer will take place, but the usual time lag is anything between four and six months.
Marks & Spencer has said the change will allow it to improve its fish range and deliver new products.
Icelandic Seachill’s Grimsby sales total £260 million a year so, unless the company can capture some new business, the M&S decision will mean a sales loss of more than 20 per cent.
Cllr Peter Wheatley, portfolio holder for Regeneration, Skills and Housing, said: ‘There is no doubt this is a blow for the town. But as council we will do everything in our power to help those who may be affected.
‘I know from personal experience during my working days that this sort of things does unfortunately happen when contracts change.’
George Krawiec, chairman of Seafood Grimsby and Humber, said his group was very sorry to receive the news.
‘I am afraid it does reflect the very competitive nature of the seafood business today. Some of that contract will be going to another Grimsby firm, which will help to keep jobs here.
‘But we must do everything we can to retain our and grow position as the number one seafood processing region in the UK. We at Seafood Grimsby and Humber will be working hard to that end.’
This latest development in Grimsby’s seafood industry has echoes of the crisis a year ago when Young’s lost a £100 million Sainsbury’s salmon processing contract to Marine Harvest.
However, it was Fraserburgh in Scotland which took most of the jobs losses, not Grimsby as was first feared.