SH Pratt, a fruit importing firm, has confirmed 86 jobs have been axed at its Luton plant in Bedfordshire. The news comes following the loss of a major contract to supply supermarket chain Morrisons.
Before the decision was made there was a 45-day period of consultation between staff, management and GMB union representatives over the future of the workers at the Laporte Way site.
At one stage it was thought that more than 100 employees would have to lose their jobs. David Bateman, operations director at SH Pratt, told FoodManufacture.co.uk the figure was reduced to 86 because the company had been able to minimise the losses.
Mr Bateman said he believed the business was in a good position to recover from Morrisons’ decision to terminate its contract. He said: “There's nothing on the horizon as yet, but we remain extremely confident that in the future we will replace that void.”
In an official statement issued by SH Pratt, Mr Bateman said: “We would like to thank all our employees, especially those directly affected by the restructure, for their assistance and understanding during this difficult period.”
Warren Kenny, leader of the GMB’s London organising team, has represented union members at SH Pratt for many years.
He told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “This is going to have a big impact in the local economy. Pratts has been a very recognisable and admired supplier in the area for many years. It has always been a good employer in the town.”
In July 2013, Morrisons revealed that it had purchased its own banana ripening facility in Lincolnshire. The deal was made with Del Monte as part of a joint venture with global pacific.
In October, Mr Bateman explained that Morrisons traditionally packs many of its products in-house, with the exclusion of bananas. When the opportunity arose for them to have their own ripening facility, the supermarket seized it.
SH Pratt was founded in 1947 and is now one of Europe’s leading fruit suppliers. The company imports, ripens and distributes organic, Fairtrade and conventional bananas as well as bananitos and pineapples to top UK retailers.
The business has approximately 300 employees that produce 3,900 pallets of ripened fruit every week.