Labour Party members and Trades Unionists across South Somerset have come out in support of workers at the threatened Oscar Mayer ready-meals plant in Chard. A statement from the Unions warned that the closure should concern everyone in Chard, in South Somerset and in the wider area. Yeovil & District Trade Union Council held an online discussion on the subject on 5 November, attended by Rowena Hayward of the GMB union, which has members employed at the site, and a staff representative. All delegates expressed their concern, noting that the closure, if it goes ahead, would be very damaging to the local economy due to the loss of purchasing power by people becoming unemployed and by the loss of business by companies supplying the plant with a wide variety of goods and services. The statement continued “We were especially concerned at the fears of foreign workers with non-settled status who may fear for their future. The loss of 860 jobs in a small town like Chard, with a population of about 12,000, would be devastating. Some workers travel considerable distances to get to work, so once again the effects would be widespread. This is also another nail in the coffin for manufacturing in the UK and comes as very sad news.”
Yeovil Trades Council Press Officer Ken Keable said “Although there has been a reduction in demand due to the pandemic, it seems that the key issue is the alleged unsuitability of the site for the refurbishment of the plant. Is there no other suitable land in the locality? Can’t the District Council or County Council assist in this? The GMB are liaising with Somerset County Council and local councillors and MPs to see whether there is anything that can be done to change the outcome.”
The statement continued “We believe that this should not just be a business decision, to be taken by the German-owned private equity group that bought the company in 2017. The human cost and the social impact on the community must also be considered. It does feel as though a decision has already been made to close the factory. Hence it is a matter for local politicians too, and perhaps national government. The workers have done nothing to deserve this treatment. We express our solidarity with the workers at Oscar Mayer and their families and stand ready to help them in any way we can. “
Chairman of Yeovil Labour Party, Terry Ledlie commented “I would like to send a message of Solidarity to GMB union and the 860 strong workforce at Oscar Mayer ready-meals plant in Chard. Yeovil Labour party support GMB union officials to go about their work in safeguarding Jobs and negotiating a way forward for the vulnerable employees and hopefully overturn this decision. It’s time to rethink this decision that if it goes ahead will damage the local economy and bring hardship to 860 families within Chard.
We hope that any redundancies will be voluntary and that the employer can offer alternative employment or work with local employers within the Chard area should all other options fail to ensure that the employees are looked after due to this business decision.”