LATEST: Kerr pledges for Burgons staff

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Local SNP MP Calum Kerr has pledged to “pull all the stops out” to help workers set to be made redundant through the closure of a Berwickshire food processing plant.

The Burgons crab factory in Eyemouth is preparing to close down after making heavy losses which it says can no longer be sustained. More than 80 jobs are at risk.

The Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP said: “Unfortunately it does seem that despite discussions with the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Borders Council and myself, the plant is going to shut.

“All parties made every effort to explore any avenue that may have helped to reverse the owners’ decision but sadly in vain. The business minister, Fergus Ewing, took a personal interest and we did look at the possibility of loan funding, but at the end of the day, saving the business was just not going to be possible.”

Today David Markham, of owners The Blue Sea Food Company, said: “We are still in consultation so nothing is over yet but as yet we can’t see a way for us to continue and therefore the best chance would be a late bid to take over the business.”

He added that there is a PACE (Partnership Action for Continuing Employment) meeting set for Thrusday, December 3, between 2 – 5pm.

MP Calum Kerr went on to describe the measures that have been taken by concerned parties since it was announced that the Eyemouth jobs were at risk: “I’ve been working closely on this with my colleague in the Scottish Parliament, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, who has also discussed the company’s difficulties and its impacts with the Minister.

“I’ll pull all the stops out to help those who are going to lose their jobs because of this. I know that Paul will do the same. As a local resident and an MSP, he is hugely committed to the local community, knows the impact this will have locally and is also determined to do everything he possibly can to support constituents who face, for example, immediate housing or financial concerns.”

Mr Kerr went on: “The company clearly felt it had to act to prevent further losses and possible insolvency. For the staff though it is of course particularly tough to hear that you’re going to be made redundant at this time of year.

“A PACE team will be meeting the workforce to offer advice on new jobs and as the local MP, I’m also happy to have a discussion with anyone who feels I can offer advice and support.”

One of the many reasons for continued losses has been the huge cost of taking the unwanted crab shell to landfill.

Mr Kerr said that after making his own enquiries locally, he had managed to locate possible savings to Burgons of some £30,000 a year by finding local farmers who would have taken the firm’s empty crab shells to use as fertiliser.

The MP continued: “It would have been a helpful saving but unfortunately and despite all our efforts, it came too late.”

“The loss of Burgons is a severe blow to Eyemouth. We now need to do everything we can to make sure that these skilled and committed workers find new employment, hopefully locally and as quickly as possible”.

Trevor Bartlett of Burgons commented: “We are very grateful to Calum Kerr for his contribution towards seeking ways of continuing the business and for identifying the possible savings by finding local farms which would have taken the crab shells.

“Unfortunately, though, there have been too many other reasons for the losses which have been supported by the parent company for three years, preventing its growth, so it has been with great reluctance that we have made this decision.

“As the only company to offer continued employment when the previous owners were looking to sell, we feel we have done our best for the workforce and are confident that the employment opportunities are far better now than they were three years ago and we wish all the staff well as they seek other work.

“Apart from supporting the losses our parent operation, The Blue Sea Food Company, which is based in Devon, invested more than £500,000 in capital expenditure over the years which demonstrated our determination to make this work but unfortunately, these losses simply cannot be supported any longer.

“Since the announcement we have been in negotiations with potential buyers who may have wanted to take over the business and will continue to pursue this option for as long as we possibly can.