FEARS ARE GROWING over job losses at one of Moray’s largest and most important employers with up to 80 thought to be in danger at Baxters in Fochabers.
Staff were called in to several meetings this week and informed of a ‘consultation’ process they will undergo in response to “ongoing external challenges”.
The news has come as a major surprise to staff and the entire food and drink industry, coming as it does at time when Baxters has seen major international growth in the business over the last year. Now their Moray staff are in fear for their futures as they have been told the company must become more efficient to compete in the global market.
Executive chair and group CEO, Audrey Baxter, said in a statement released by the company following staff meetings: “We must respond to ongoing challenges such as difficult trading conditions, squeeze on margins, food deflation, aggressive promotional activity and overall category decline reflecting change in consumer tastes.”
Ms Baxter told staff that for them to do that would need changes to “good manufacturing and commercial practices to maximise efficiencies”, adding: “The plans we are now embarking on are essential to make Baxters a stronger manufacturing group for the future, enhancing its position as one of Scotland’s much-loved family businesses spanning a heritage of nearly 150 years.”
The review is expected to include a programme of investment in the skills base of employees at Fochabers – with the aim of creating “lean manufacturing practices” at their flagship factory. However, at this stage the company are saying that no job losses are planned for any of their other operations around the world.
“The focus on its Fochabers operations underpins the commitment to building on the foundations of the company’s spiritual home – and will retain Fochabers’ flagship status in Baxters Food Group,” the statement added.
Local councillors reflected the fears of many Baxters staff members living in their Fochabers/Lhanbryde ward, with Douglas Ross saying: “I only hope the consultation goes as well as possible for those affected and that they can get assurances as soon as possible.”
Sean Morton described the news as “worrying times”, saying: “What I’m hearing from workers is that they are worried for their jobs – Baxters say as much as 10% of the workforce will be consulted about their future at the company. To many, that’s just another way of saying they are facing the sack.
“These are worrying times, many people are wondering how a successful company can expand so rapidly and yet are still having to consider letting people go.”
The global workforce employed by the Baxters Group is 1500, almost half of them employed in Moray. The company has a turnover of £300million with global sales rising rapidly following the acquisition of the United States firm Wornick, purchased for £87.4million.