Fifty city jobs are axed at Plymouth bread distribution centre
FIFTY jobs are to be axed at the Premier Foods' bread distribution centre in Plymouth.
The firm, famous for its Hovis brand, will close the facility by the middle of next year and is already in consultation with staff.
Jobcentre Plus has also been called in to "offer a package of support" to workers and union chiefs also called for urgent talks with management about the redundancies.
The news comes just a week after financial management company The Money Group launched a recruitment drive to hire 300 workers for a call centre it plans to open just down the road from Premier Foods' Burringdon Way industrial estate base.
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A spokesman for the bread company today said the Plymouth centre, axed alongside three others in the Premier Foods group, was being closed because it was among the least profitable.
The company also said the loss of a contract with the Co-operative had made its South West "satellite depot" no longer cost-effective.
Premier Foods said closing the Plymouth site, which had opened in 1972, was 'part of measures needed to drive sustainable profitable growth by simplifying its manufacturing and distribution operations to improve efficiency, quality and service levels'.
Alongside shutting the Plymouth operation, the company is looking at closing bakeries in Greenford and Birmingham, in addition to the previously announced closure of the Eastleigh bakery, and removing about 130 distribution routes.
As a consequence, it wants to close distribution operations in Greenford, Birmingham, Mendlesham and Plymouth.
It also plans to restructure outsourced logistics operations and all these proposals are expected to result in 900 fewer jobs across the Bread Division.
Closing Plymouth and Mendlesham, where the sites could be sold, represents "the best option in terms of ongoing service and costs as well as minimising disruption", the firm said.
Michael Clarke, chief executive of Premier Foods, said: "Having generated solid growth momentum in our Grocery Division, it is critical we act to assure the long-term future of the Bread Division.
"By simplifying our cost base, we can increase focus on improving efficiency, quality and service levels to help grow our core Hovis business.
"We recognise the impact these actions will have for our employees at the sites affected.
"Decisions will not be taken lightly but they are necessary if we are to build a strong and successful future for the Bread Division and those who remain with our business".
Meanwhile, Unite, the country's largest union, joined with BFAWU, the majority union on the affected sites, in calling for urgent talks about the job losses.
Unite has more than 2,500 members across all divisions of Premier Foods and the union's national officer for food and drink, Jennie Formby, said: "This is just another stage in the disaster story that has been Premier Foods over recent years, which has consistently struggled ever since its decision to buy Hovis in 2006.
"At the time, this strategy was described as 'doomed' by some analysts and it has resulted in the company being saddled with massive debts.
"Management claims the job losses are as a result of 'competition and wheat prices', but the reality is our members are continuing to pay the heavy price of Premier's failure to make a success of the business and we remain extremely concerned about the future of the remaining business."
A council spokesman added: "Clearly this is a worrying time for the staff and we hope that the company will do all it can to consider alternatives to closure and look at ways of mitigating the impact.
"The council and our partners such as Job Centre Plus will be happy to meet with the company to discuss options for employees who may be facing redundancy."
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