South East Wales

Around 650 Avana Bakeries jobs at risk after M&S contract loss

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Media captionThe bakery has lost a contract for 85% of its production

Around 650 jobs at a bakery in Newport are under threat after the company lost a multi-million pound cake contract to a firm in Oldham.

Marks and Spencer has pulled the plug on its 77 year history with Avana Bakeries, in Rogerstone, leaving jobs and the site under threat.

The M&S deal makes up 85% of what the Avana bakery produces.

A spokesman for owners 2 Sisters Food Group called the decision a "huge setback".

"It is with much regret that we can confirm following a strategic review with our customer M&S, the majority of employees at our Avana bakery site in Newport are now at risk of redundancy following the loss of our M&S business to a competitor," he said.

"The work will now be transferred to the other company, therefore placing the majority of our 650-strong workforce at risk of redundancy. There is also a risk that the site could be closed.

"Clearly this is a huge setback to our cakes business and our operations in Wales, but we are determined to work hard to reverse the situation."

He said they would be attempting to rebuild the business and looking for alternative customers as a matter of urgency.

'Devastating blow'

"Our immediate priority now is to have meaningful discussions with our colleagues during a 45-day consultation period to explore all available options before taking the next steps. We remain hopeful we can retain our business in Newport," he added.

Worker Jamie Evans, 35, from Cwmbran, who has worked at the Rogerstone site for 12 years, was on Thursday's night shift.

"I am shocked at the news and can't believe it as we all thought that it was going to be busier this year," he said.

"Hopefully there will be light at the end of the tunnel, with four kids and bills to pay it could be quite hard.

"This was always a possibility if M&S pulled out and now it's reality."

Robert Dust said: "Some people have been here 35 years and to find out now that it might be going, it's a hell of a blow."

Temporary worker Richard Hartland said his hopes of getting a permanent contract at the plant had now been dashed.

"I hope somebody steps in and takes over from Marks and Spencer and the orders are still there, so hopefully if not all the jobs can be saved 90% of them," he added.

'Loyal hardworking people'

Responding to the news, Welsh Secretary David Jones said his office was in close communication with the firm and was confident that all options to safeguard jobs were being explored.

"I have spoken to Paul Flynn MP and have also spoken personally to the Director of Food Technology at M&S who has assured me that the decision to cease the contract was a purely commercial decision," he said.

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Media captionAvana won the M&S contract more than 10 years ago

"We are committed to working with Avana Bakeries and the Welsh government to offer all the support we can at this difficult time. Jobcentre Plus is also ready to support employees who may be affected by this announcement today."

A spokesperson for M&S said: "As part of our work to further improve the quality of our food supply chain, we are consolidating some of our fresh desserts and cakes business and moving from two suppliers to one.

"It's not a decision we've taken lightly and understand that it will have a significant impact for Avana Bakeries. We'll do all we can to support the supplier through the process."

Following the announcement, Newport West AM and Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler, who visited the site on Friday, said: "This is devastating news both for the worker and for Newport.

"This is a loyal hardworking group of people and the fact that 650 jobs is being talked about is appalling.

"I understand 75% of their work will go. It's all so sudden and unexpected."

'Bolt from the blue'

Newport West MP Paul Flynn tweeted: "Very serious jobs blow at Avana Newport with loss of M&S contract. Not all jobs affected and there is some hope to rebuild. Good luck."

Rogerstone councillor Chris Evans said staff were told on Friday morning and the news came "like a bolt from the blue".

"It's a devastating blow," he said.

"They're a good employer, great relationship with their staff and they were even taking on more staff over Christmas.

The Welsh government said it was working with the management of Avana to help secure the factory.

"This is obviously a very worrying time for staff and their families and the Welsh government is working with 2 Sisters Food Group to explore every option that could safeguard the jobs at Rogerstone," said a spokesman.

"We will also be ensuring that all staff are fully supported through this difficult period.

"The company has underlined its commitment to its staff and the Welsh government will continue to work closely with senior management to investigate any new business and employment opportunities here."

M&S said Oldham-firm Park Cake Bakeries had won the contract.

A spokesman for Park Cake said it had enjoyed a "long and fruitful" relationship with M&S and was pleased to continue working with it.

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