Marks and Sparks Tuna And Pasta Bake Causes 700 Job Losses At Northern Foods

Well, I'll never eat another one again. I hate tuna anyway:

The Guardian--More than 700 workers could lose their jobs after Northern Foods abandoned its contract to make Italian ready meals for Marks & Spencer, admitting that it could not make a profit on the deal.

Northern Foods announced this morning that it plans to mothball its Fenland Foods factory in Grantham, which produces a range of chilled Italian meals for M&S.

After long-running contract discussions with M&S, Northern Foods said it was unable to reach an agreement under which it could make a profit. It now hopes to land a deal with another supermarket chain.

"We have to be prepared to have the site closed for two to three years," said chief executive Stefan Barden.

"Quite frankly, you can't keep people employed through that time period," he said.

He indicated that staff who were laid off would get preferential treatment if they applied for a job at Fenland in the future.

The Fenland Foods factory was built in 1986, when the ready meals market was in its infancy. It employs 730 people. Some staff will be offered alternative roles at other sites, but it appears likely that the majority will be laid off.

Barden denied that M&S was to blame for the closure of the factory, which accounts for about 15% of Northern Foods' business with the retail chain.

Last month the Competition Commission said an ombudsman should be created to enforce a code of conduct preventing supermarkets forcing suppliers to supply them too cheaply. Barden indicated, though, that an ombudsman would have made little difference in this case.