Scotland’s loss is Grimsby’s gain
CONSCIOUS of the blow to Scottish employment, Grimsby’s seafood sector is expressing quiet diplomatic delight today at the news that Young’s is to create 200 more jobs in the town and take over the contract to produce coated chilled and frozen fish for Marks & Spencer.
Just a week ago the port town was facing a serious crisis after Five Star Fish announced it was giving up the M&S coated fish contract with the loss of 390 jobs.
The situation has now been turned totally upside down and it looks as if the area could be set for a seafood renaissance.
The possibility of a change in fortunes came 24 hours earlier the supermarket chain Wm Morrison said it wanted an extra 100 people for its expanding Grimsby fish processing site.
Now Young’s is set to bring at least 200 jobs to the town where it has its headquarters.
But celebrations were muted because the Young’s move looks to be at the expense of 450 jobs at its Pinney’s salmon plant in Annan, which supplies smoked salmon to the Queen and which Young’s said it is proposing to close by the end of the year.
George Krawiec, chairman of Seafood Grimsby and Humber, the body set up a few years ago to enhance Grimsby fish industry, told Fish Update: ‘Yes, it is sad new for Scotland and our sympathies go out to the people up there.
‘But there is no disguising the fact that this is excellent news for Grimsby. It shows how quickly things can change in this business.
‘The Young’s decision reinforces the town’s claim to be a centre of seafood excellence and the main processing sector in the UK.
‘While the growth of the offshore wind sector in the Humber and the extra jobs it brings is very welcome, seafood remains the main employment platform for Grimsby.
‘Marks & Spencer clearly wanted to keep its coated fish business in Grimsby and they are to be congratulated for doing so.’
The news has also been welcomes by the local North East Lincolnshire (Grimsby and Cleethorpes) Council and the two local MPs.
But the mood in the south of Scotland was one of near despair. Pinney’s has been one of the largest private employers since it was founded in 1976.
Local MSP Colin Smyth (Labour) said he has written to Young’s appealing to them to reconsider their decision, adding that the news was ‘absolutely devastating’ for the workforce and their families and an already fragile local economy.
‘I have also written to (First Minister) Nicola Sturgeon urging her to support that reconsideration and to provide support for those affected.
‘There are whole families employed at Pinneys, which has served the town as a major employer for decades, and this closure will be an utter tragedy for so many people in our area.
‘A closure of this scale in such a small community will send shockwaves right across the whole, already fragile, local economy.’
Scottish Secretary David Mundell – a Dumfriesshire MP – warned that the economic damage of such a move ‘cannot be understated’.
The rising cost of fish – cod and haddock prices are up by almost six per cent in a year – is thought to be one of main the reasons for the rationalisation now taking place within the industry.
The cost of cod and haddock from Iceland and Norway shot up when sterling fell in value after Brexit. And prices are continuing to rise.
The coated fish work currently being carried out by Five Star is one of three significant contracts Young’s has struck with M&S for the next five years.
The other two are for white fish and natural salmon which, of course, is at the expense of Scotland.
The company has also announced that it is to quit deli and meals production at its Pinney’s site as it is no longer financially sustainable. But 50 new jobs will be created at its scampi factory in Annan where production is to be expanded.
Young’s said in a statement: ‘Following a review of its UK operations, the company proposes to move the remaining natural salmon production undertaken at the Pinneys site to Young’s existing natural salmon facility at its Humberstone Road site in Grimsby.
‘This proposal continues the company’s ‘One Young’s’ strategy in seeking to focus investments on centres of excellence to ensure Young’s is best positioned for future growth in the context of exceptionally challenging market conditions.
‘As a result of these proposals, Young’s Seafood is proposing to close its Young’s Pinneys site in Annan. A formal period of consultation with staff is now underway.’
Young’s CEO Bill Showalter said: ‘The decision by M&S to partner with Young’s to supply its chilled and frozen coated fish, white fish and natural salmon underlines our continued position as the UK’s leading seafood supplier.
‘Together with M&S, we will aim to inspire people to love fish now and for generations to come.
‘Today’s proposals to close our Young’s Pinneys site does not reflect on the committed and skilled teams at Young’s Pinneys – they are a credit to our company and if these proposals do go ahead we will work hard to maintain the employment of all colleagues throughout this transition.
‘We have a long history of seafood production in Annan and whatever the outcome of the consultation we will continue to be a part of the community, given our other factory site within the town.’