MARKS AND SPENCER was yesterday accused of corporate ruthlessness and hypocrisy after another food plant reliant on its orders was axed.
More than a thousand Scots jobs spread across two threatened factories reliant on the retail giant are now at risk.
The 2 Sisters food group announced this week its poultry processing plant in Cambuslang, where around 450 people are currently employed, will shut down in August.
M&S is its main customer and the news comes after we told of despair and anger in Annan over the proposed closure of the Pinneys fish processing plant that threatens to devastate the town.
In a letter to Labour MSP James Kelly, Paul Willgoss, director of Food Technology at M&S, said the company supported 2 Sisters’ decision to move operations south to East Anglia.
But he claimed: “We remain deeply committed to Scotland both as an employer and a customer of the food and agricultural sector. Periodic reviews by us and our suppliers are essential to maintain a sustainable, high quality and innovative customer proposition.
“There are other significant investments being made by 2 Sisters and other M&S manufacturers in Scotland at this time, which while not directly helping employees affected by the 2 Sisters proposal, they do reflect our collective confidence in and commitment to Scotland’s food sector.”
But the claims have been rejected by community leaders.
Mr Kelly, a Glasgow MSP, said: “M&S loves to boast about its investment in communities whenever it is talking about itself, yet in the last few weeks the reality has shone through. A thousand jobs in Scotland are being lost because M&S has failed to step in and save workers serving on their production lines.
“M&S is a retail giant which has huge purchasing power. Management have shown a real disinterest in stepping in to stop these closures which will cause a great disruption in communities.”
A 2 Sisters spokesman said the company plans to create 250 new jobs in Coupar Angus, Perthshire.
He revealed that “several million pounds” had been spent on the Cambuslang plant but that it remained a loss-making operation.
The company hopes to keep compulsory redundancies to a minimum and will look at redeployment options.
The spokesman said: “We have tried every turnaround option available to us, ranging from cost reduction measures and an attempt to grow the business organically. It has made little difference.”
Fresh hope was given to the people of Annan this week when Brendan Maher, who owns the town’s St James’s Smokehouse, said he was interested in taking on the Pinneys factory and would retain all the workers if he could secure a deal.
But almost 600 jobs are still under threat in a town with a working-age population of just 5247 with Young’s Seafood planning to quit the site, where M&S was the sole contract.
Superstar DJ Calvin Harris has added his voice to the anger at the proposed closure.
The LA-based music producer last week offered to do what he could to help those affected.
Harris, who worked for M&S as a shelf stacker in Dumfries, has been asked to film video in support of the campaign.
SNP South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine said: “Marks and Spencer use the slogan Simply Food. Over the past week, many workers have come to the conclusion the company is Simply Ruthless.
“A week after the proposed closure of Pinneys was announced, another company in the M&S supply chain had its fate sealed.
“There was a fight-back in Annan this week. Workers packed the town’s market hall to vent their feelings at a meeting arranged by myself and the Save Pinneys campaign group. They heard that the Scottish Government was speaking to three potential operators interested in the site.”
Labour MSP Colin Smyth, who held a series of advice surgeries for Pinneys workers across Annandale on Friday, added: “The mood from workers has moved from shock to anger towards both Young’s and Marks and Spencer. People know that M&S could step in and save Pinneys, using their influence to put a halt to a decision which will have a disastrous effect on Annan’s economy. M&S have walked away from any corporate responsibility.”
An M&S spokeswoman said Lanarkshire-based Dawnfresh, which will be picking up the fish deli business from Pinneys, plans to recruit 150 people and that Scotbeef near Stirling is looking to recruit around 100 people after securing a five year contract to supply the supermarket with red meat.
She added: “The closure of the Cambuslang factory was a 2 Sisters Food Group decision and we are working closely with them on the changes.”