Belfast Telegraph

Tayto staff threaten strike action as up to 80 jobs could go at Tandragee factory

Staff at Tayto have been told that there could be up to 80 job losses at the Tandragee factory.

According to union Unite they have been informed of the likely job losses by management acting on behalf of the company's owners Manderley Food Group and they are now threatening strike action.

The news comes as Tayto are celebrating 60 years of producing crisps and snacks in Northern Irealnd.

Sean McKeever, Unite officer for production and packaging workers at Tayto in Tandragee said: “Manderley Food Group appears intent on maximising their profits at Tayto regardless of the cost to the workforce. 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 and Armagh DUP Assembly candidate William Irwin said he is concerned at the prospect of jobs losses.

Mr 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.

"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."

Belfast Telegraph Digital