Pilgrim's UK has announced the proposed closure of its Ashton-under-Lyne site as part of further measures to fully optimize its operational footprint across the United Kingdom and return to growth.
The proposed closure is part of Pilgrim's UK's ongoing footprint review as the business ensures the best structure for long-term growth and development, and for mitigating the current unfavorable market conditions in the UK.
The UK pork sector continues to face the most significant challenges in its history, with the UK sow herd having contracted by around 15% and loss-making farmers leaving the industry due to a sustained period of high production costs and lower pig prices. At the same time, an increasing and on-going reliance in the UK on cheaper, lower welfare imports from the EU and post-pandemic recovery challenges within certain markets has negatively impacted UK production.
The initial phase of Pilgrim's UK's footprint review included the closure of its Coalville site and the imminent closure of the Bury St Edmunds site, as well as the introduction of a four-day week at Ashton in September 2022. In order to continue to optimize the business' operational footprint, Pilgrim's UK Executive Team has now proposed to close the Ashton site and transfer existing operations to its facilities in Spalding, Westerleigh and Bromborough.
"The decision to propose the closure of our Ashton site has not been taken lightly and we have made every effort to explore alternative options," said Rachel Baldwin, vice president of human resources, Pilgrim's UK. "A key part of our work to return to growth includes ensuring we fully optimize our operational footprint and the age and location of Ashton within a densely populated area means that there is no feasible opportunity to modernize or grow the site. As a result, these proposals are unfortunately essential to ensure a sustainable future for our team members across the UK."
The announcement puts all 542 Ashton team members, at all levels, at risk of redundancy. The proposals will create 90 additional roles split between Westerleigh, Spalding and Bromborough.
The business will now enter into a period of collective consultation with site union and employee representatives. Full support and guidance will be provided to anyone at risk of redundancy, including support in seeking alternative roles both inside and outside of the Pilgrim's UK organization.