Tayto’s sixtieth anniversary will be marked with large-scale redundancies at Tandragee, trade union Unite has claimed.
Sean McKeever, Unite officer for production and packaging workers at Tayto in Tandragee said he has been informed of a likely eighty job losses at the site by management acting on behalf of Manderley Food Group.
“Manderley Food Group appears intent on maximising their profits at Tayto regardless of the cost to the workforce,” said Mr McKeever.
“They have now informed Unite that they will be seeking eighty redundancies in the next few months.
“This is only the latest in a series of blows to workers. It comes only days after they attempted to justify not paying the new ‘National’ Living Wage by counting a monthly bonus payment made entirely separate to the basic wage.
“This is disgraceful behaviour from a group who announced pre-tax profits for 2015 of more than seven million pounds. The four directors of this company, including the wealthy Hutchinson family members, were paid more than £1.7 million last year in director fees alone and their wealth was estimated in the 2016 Rich List at £67 million.
“This group appear intent on marking the sixtieth anniversary of Tayto in Tandragee with large-scale job losses and a squeeze on workers’ pay.
“This latest announcement leaves Unite with no option but to ballot our members for strike action. It is likely that any strike action will cause significant disruption to the production of Tayto crisps but also own-brand products for the multiples,” Mr McKeever concluded.
A spokesperson for Tayto said: “While we are not currently in formal consultation with staff regarding redundancies at our Tandragee site, there is a strong possibility that we will have to consider this.
“Two years ago Tayto Group had an outstanding year, which was reflected in the figures recently published, but this financial year has been more difficult and while things are picking up, business is down. We always experience a seasonal drop in the first few months of the year, but recovery has definitely been slower this year. It is only five years ago that the company lost nearly £18million in one year and while in the last three years we have made a pre-tax profit totalling £17million, we have actually invested more than £18mlllion in capital expenditure.
“Production costs in Tandragee are considerably higher than at any of our other sites, which are all in England. Only £25million of our £180million turnover comes from Tandragee. In addition, much of our raw material cannot be sourced locally and has to be brought in from GB and beyond, it is processed at the County Armagh factory and then 60% of what we produce is shipped back for sale in GB.
“The Hutchinson family and Tayto Group management are based here. We are extremely proud to be part of a successful local company and of the Northern Ireland heritage of the Tayto brand and we have no intention of ceasing production at the Tandragee site. However, it could be that in the future we will be forced to restrict production here to what is sold in Northern Ireland in order to ensure the continued success of the company and to make best use of our resources, in particular, the capacity we currently have in the more-economical GB plants.”
Newry & Armagh DUP Assembly candidate William Irwin said: “This is a very worrying and deeply concerning development for Tandragee and the surrounding area.
“Tayto is an important local employer and many people in the town and surrounding rely on this large company for their livelihoods.”
He added: “The Union has stated that up to 80 jobs could be lost and this would be a severe blow for the town and for those who would be directly affected. It is of absolute importance that Tayto revisit this matter and seek to find alternative measures to maintain the current staff compliment and avoid redundancies.”
UUP’s Danny Kennedy said: “Tayto has been at the heart of Tandragee and the surrounding area for a very long time so this news will be of great concern to the whole community.
“I have contacted company representatives to request a meeting and have also spoken to Sean McKeever from the UNITE union and will meet with Trade Union representatives and workers.
“In addition I have spoken directly to the Enterprise Minister and asked to be included in discussions and meetings with company management as soon as they can be arranged. It is imperative that all local public representatives work together to allay the concerns of the workforce and do what can be done to help the company at this time.”
Councillor Sam Nicholson added: “Tayto’s association with Tandragee goes back decades and it is imperative that action is taken to try to avoid these potential job losses. The local economy depends on jobs such as these and a loss on this scale would unquestionably constitute a major blow to community morale.
“Tayto is an important part of the local agri-food and manufacturing sectors. Any job losses would obviously have a consequential impact on the supply chain and the local potato producers. It is vitally important that this business is retained in Tandragee.”