A deal has been struck to save 250 jobs at a north-east fish factory – but 650 workers will still be made redundant.
Processing giant Young’s unveiled plans to close its Fraserburgh plant earlier this month after losing a massive contract to supply supermarket Sainsbury’s with salmon.
But following an emergency summit yesterday bosses revealed their preferred option now was to keep the factory operational with a significantly slimmed-down workforce.
Under the new plans, 250 of the 500 permanent staff would be retained.
However, the 400 agency and temporary workers currently on the payroll would lose their jobs.
Young’s is also trying to find a buyer for its smokehouse in Grantown, which employs 24 people.
Scottish Government Business Minister Fergus Ewing led crisis talks with the company in Peterhead yesterday at a meeting also attended by representatives of Scottish Enterprise and Aberdeenshire Council.
Mr Ewing, who described the discussions as “workmanlike and constructive”.
He added: “Starting off from a position of facing total closure and total loss of facilities in Fraserburgh – although nothing is signed, sealed or delivered yet – it is encouraging there is some progress.
“The company is now looking at its preferred scenario of continuing in Fraserburgh.
“Although we’re still facing very substantial numbers losing their jobs, the situation is less bleak than it was 24 hours ago.”
Young’s is now expected to make a formal decision in the coming weeks.
There were fears when it announced proposals to close the plant at Fraserburgh’s Watermill road that all 900 workers at the site would be made redundant.
Mr Ewing, who co-chaired the summit with Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had taken “particular interest” in the ongoing situation and conference called management and staff representatives earlier this week.
He said: “Although she will be off on a business journey to China at the weekend, she will be kept appraised of all developments by myself.”
Young’s chief executive, Pete Ward, said last night the talks had been an opportunity for him to be “transparent” with all parties involved.
He said: “Our plans continue to evolve as you will have seen from today’s preference which would retain up to 250 jobs in the north-east of Scotland.
“Unfortunately, given the loss of the contract, it’s likely the agency workforce who are on temporary contracts will actually leave the business.”
Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers’ representative, Alex Moonan, said employees would continue to fight for their jobs.
Mr Moonan said: “It’s good that many jobs will be safeguarded. We’d like more, but we’ll have to work on that.
“As long as the site remains open that’s half the battle – if the site closes that’s a major loss. I think we’re better off than we were this time last week.
“One third of the workforce has been safeguarded – now the fight is on to secure as many more jobs as possible.”
Mr Moonan will meet USDAW members and local MSP Stewart Stevenson on Saturday.
Moray MSP Mr Lochhead said: “In the matter of a few short days we have moved from a position where the preferred option was to close the whole of the Fraserburgh operation, to one where the preferred option is to downsize rather than wholesale closure.
“But there’s still a huge amount of work to be done to secure jobs.”
Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said she would continue to support the workers “at this difficult time”.
Scottish Enterprise’s Keith Fulton added: “We’re working with a number of other public sector agencies with a view of coming up with the best potential proposal we can to encourage Young’s to retain as many of the jobs as possible.”