Hundreds of jobs could be at risk after a Warwickshire bakery announced plans to merge two of its factories into a new mechanised site.
Cake maker Elisabeth the Chef, which employs more than 1,400 people at sites in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, has received planning permission for a new high-tech desserts factory at its headquarters in Leamington Spa.
But it said the new factory – which would require a staff of about 150 to run – would replace sites in Southam and Leamington, which between them employ nearly 500 people. Elisabeth said the new factory would be highly automated, meaning they could massively ramp up their output in the long term.
The firm said the new factory would mean the gradual closure of both the factory in Southam – which employs about 130 people – and another factory in Leamington, with employs about 350. The transfer of production would be taking place over the first half of 2010, it added.
Company chief executive Bill Haywood said: “We are excited by the proposals to build a state-of-the-art desserts production site here in Leamington Spa, but while it is good to be able to announce positive news about a sizeable investment in new buildings and technology, we are deeply aware this may mean changes to our workforce numbers. We are undertaking a formal consultation process with our affected employees to examine all options and impacts.
“So, I am committing to ensuring we minimise the impacts of this change by offering retraining and redeployment where possible.”
Employees at all Elisabeth the Chef sites have been given details of the plans and a formal consultation process with all affected employees has been launched. The company said it did not want to speculate on the exact numbers that would be leaving until a decision had been made.
A spokesman said: “We are not putting a number on it because it’s very difficult to say exactly how many people will be staying with the business yet. Because the new factory is going to be so automated the production skills that the new site requires are different. It will be significant though, we can’t deny that.”
The company announced the changes after approval was received from its French owners, the Senoble Group. This gave the UK management the green light to press ahead with the plan to change the use of a factory adjacent to the Berrington Road headquarters. It will also be converting a former Heinz engineering building for use as a storage and distribution warehouse.