CONCERNS over the fate of Wigan’s massive Heinz factory today prompted a flurry of demands for urgent talks.
The local MPs, taken by surprise by the announcement from Pittsburgh HQ of five plant closures, today said they would be wanting to speak with management urgently on the matter.
A statement from Heinz read: “Heinz will drive productivity to partially offset rapidly rising commodity costs and to become even more competitive in a challenging business environment. We need to provide the fuel for sustained growth and investment.
“Our plan includes exiting one factory in Poland. We are evaluating potential options elsewhere in Europe.
“As we know, no decision can be taken in Europe until the appropriate consultation has taken place with relevant works councils, unions and employees.
“So our plans will be subject to this consultation. Until then it would be wrong to speculate on any location.”
Unions said that a pull-out from Wigan, with the loss of more than 1,200 jobs, would be a “disaster” for both Wigan and the company.
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said: “These are difficult economic times and Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue and I will be doing everything we can to ensure that Heinz jobs stay in Wigan.
“It is difficult to see at this stage what Heinz’s plans are but we will contact the company urgently to discuss details and meet union representatives.
“It is not complacent to say that while Heinz is important to Wigan, Wigan is also important to Heinz.
“It was described to me by management as a very special site for a combination of vital factors including all the space they have, its access to fresh water and transport links.”
Mick Quinn, the Unite union deputy convenor at Heinz Kitt Green, said: “It would be disastrous for them as well as us if they pull out of Wigan.
“But while the details have yet to filter down from the bigwigs, we do not believe these plans are going to affect Kitt Green too much.
“Soup and beans are key to Heinz’s success and we are the centre for excellence for both those products in Europe.”
Unite said they were awaiting a full formal meeting with management in the next few weeks and in the meantime it was “business as usual.”
Only two years ago Her Majesty The Queen visited the Kitt Green factory as it celebrated the 50th anniversary of its opening.
But Heinz’s connections with Wigan stretch back much further than that, its having previously had a major plant in Standish.