An MSP has vowed to take the case of dozens of workers at a closure-threatened Aberdeen dairy plant to the top of Government.
Muller, which produces milk, cream, butter and yoghurts, is proposing a move to existing sites in central Scotland which it says are “close to customer regional distribution centres”.
The firm recently completed a £15 million upgrade at its dairy in Bellshill.
Around 50 jobs at the firm’s Altens plant could be affected by the review, which will take in Aberdeen’s distribution, garage, tanker and retail operations – and will be the subject of a 30-day consultation process.
Aberdeen South and North Kincardine MSP Maureen Watt said options to support the workers were being explored – and warned the relocation could have a knock-on effect on dairy farmers across the north-east.
She said: “It’s obviously very bad news for the 50 employees and I will be engaging immediately with the Scottish Government’s Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (Pace) team to make sure re-employment or retraining is found.
“It is also bad news for dairy farmers in the north-east as it will make milk production in the area more insecure.
“I will be contacting the Scottish Government to see if there is any assistance they can offer in terms of a reconsideration of the proposed relocation.”
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Kate Cumming, area organiser for the trade union Usdaw, added: “Usdaw members working in Muller’s Aberdeen depot are clearly devastated by this announcement.
“We will now enter into meaningful consultations with the company to interrogate the business case for this proposal.
“In the meantime, we are providing our members with the support, advice and representation they need at this very difficult time.”
Although the outcome of the consultation will not be determined until the review is completed, the company has confirmed support and the possibility of relocation will be offered.
Muller says the review comes against a backdrop of a decline in consumption of fresh milk and “significant changes in retailing”.
The firm has focused on creating a network of what it calls “super-dairies” as part of its Project Darwin programme, aimed at securing the future of the business and the sector.
Muller chief executive Ian Smith said: “We need to continually adapt to meet changing customer and consumer preferences.
“We’re facing into the reality of a decline in fresh milk consumption and significant changes in retailing.
“The volume going through our Aberdeen site has been severely impacted and with the majority of our customers’ distribution operations now located in central Scotland, we need to take action. We are ready to consult to ensure that our operational capabilities meet the requirements of all our customers both now and in the future.
“We will work hard with our employees and their representatives over the next 30 days to find the right solutions.”
Nigg, Cove and Kincorth councillor Sarah Duncan said: “The Muller announcement is very worrying for everyone employed at the depot in Altens and, unfortunately, bears out the fears expressed back in 2016 when the dairy closed with the loss of over 90 jobs.
“There is still a north-east dairy sector that needs quick access to processing and markets and a vibrant food processing sector is really important for the local economy so I hope Muller look at the bigger picture and reconsider.”