Heinz announced on 8 October proposals to close its Westwick factory near North Walsham in North Norfolk – putting at risk 200 jobs.
The company says that the proposal comes as a result of its contract to produce Aunt Bessie’s frozen potato products for the William Jackson Food Group nearing an end. Clearly questions must be asked to Heinz – why did they put all their eggs in one basket and rely so heavily on just one contract.
Campaigners are concerned about the impact on jobs and the local economy if the factory is to close. This includes local potato farmers that supply to the factory. Heinz says it is currently “exploring alternatives and options” and is currently going through a 45-day consultation process.
Denise Burke, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for North Norfolk, is leading our campaign and is worried about the impact of the closure. She says: “Heinz is a big employer here in North Walsham and to lose the factory would be so devastating for the families of the 200 people they currently employ, especially so close to Christmas.”
“It would also have a knock-on effect on the local community and that is why we have set up this petition for residents to support the workers in their fight to get Heinz to reconsider. They are a massive company and there are many opportunities for this site.”
Campaigners were out on the streets in North Walsham today collecting signatures and urging everyone to sign the ‘Jobs means Heinz’ petition. Everyone we met knew someone that worked at the factory and all were devastated by the news. One woman said that her husband who had worked at the factory for some years only heard of the proposed closure via the radio, he is currently on a week’s holiday.
Retailers in North Walsham also raised their concerns at the closure. The town, the largest in North Norfolk relies on trade from local families and the impact of so many job losses will be felt across the town.
Julia Long, from Unite the Union, said: “It is particularly concerning that Heinz is planning only 45 days to consult on their closure plans. This is a direct consequence of the current government’s law change which allows companies to walk away from communities in a matter of weeks.”
Please sign our petition and support the workers of the Heinz Factory.
Denise Burke, PPC for North Norfolk | @thedeniseb
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Labour: Coast & Country.