Morrisons lifeline for Five Star employees as it creates 100 more jobs in seafood processing

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 2 Apr 2018

Some of the hundreds of Grimsby fish factory workers facing redundancy have been thrown a lifeline today thanks to the expansion of rival firm Morrisons.

The supermarket giant is increasing production and seeking 100 more staff.

The jobs offered will be a comfort to some of the 390 at Five Star Fish on Great Grimsby Business Park, who were told last week that the site could close.

Morrisons was once a customer of Five Star, but the supermarket began the journey to take production and processing in house six years ago, first opening the former Kwoks facility then the huge second site, previously occupied by Headland Foods and Kerry Group.

It already has the physical capacity to ramp up production at its two sites after planning ahead with expansion in mind.

It currently has well over 500 employees – making it one of the biggest employers in town.

The West Yorkshire-headquartered retailer uses a large number of agency staff and the plan is to have more permanent jobs with a range of skills in the manufacturing and distribution sides of the business.  

Morrisons is looking for a variety of roles across its main filleting seafood site and its added-value operation, which smokes fish and processes delicate seafood. In total, 650 people will be employed in the town. 

MORE: Five Star Fish from founding father John Fenty to future in jeopardy

Morrisons’ head of seafood operations, Rob Smith, said: “Morrisons’ aim is to provide more and more seafood from our Grimsby site and, as a result, we need more talented foodmakers.

“With jobs at risk at other employers in Grimsby, we hope to provide more opportunities for people in the town.”

The opportunities will be across all disciplines within the firm and Mr Smith said recruitment is underway now.

Senior purchasing manager, Rob Cartwright added: “The expansion and new jobs is really good news for the town and for the industry.”

It follows Scratch Meals' creation of 25 more roles, also on Europarc, as it gears up to launch more health-focused dishes from its Humber Seafood Institute base, with Young's Seafood also understood to be picking up the major Marks and Spencer contract from Five Star, with the likelihood of a significant number of jobs being created there.

Meanwhile, Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers has written to the Prime Minister Theresa May asking her to fast track the Grimsby Town Deal, citing the recent Five Star "blow".

It aims to attract £36.9 million of central funding over five years to breathe new life into the waterways and docks, creating educational and leisure opportunities, with long-term targets of establishing 5,400 further jobs and building 7,700 homes.

The MP said the loss of another 390 jobs at Five Star Fish was “yet another blow to the town.”

In the letter, Mr Vickers said: “Business Secretary Greg Clark is eager to progress the Town Deal and ensured it was included in the Government’s Industrial Strategy and, as you rightly point out in your foreword to the document, “it is not enough to see growth in the national economy if your local economy is shrinking”.

He called for an early decision to be made.

People interested in Morrisons roles should contact the site for an application form or visit where they will see roles for production operatives.

OPINION: editor David Laister on today's news: 

Today’s huge boost for Grimsby is a welcome one, and a shrewd move from Morrisons.

It is capitalising on an available workforce facing a bleak future, but also providing itself with stability as we head towards Brexit, and the uncertainties that still surround labour movement – and the desire of those relied upon to remain in a country that has made its feelings clear.

­The supermarket’s venture into ‘vertical integration’ owning the supply chain, was a cause of much celebration six years ago, but with Grimsby’s dominating role in the seafood processing cluster, it was always going to be a slight case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Five Star Fish was one such Peter, but the merry-go-round of retail contracts saw it survive then. The pressure on all parts of the seafood industry make it a business with such fine margins, with volume everything.

Morrisons will be clearly looking to reverse a recent downturn in seafood sales itself, with Tesco and Sainsbury’s currently enjoying better days, with Aldi and Lidl snatching market share from Asda, Marks and Spencer and Morrisons.

I’m told the M&S work that has clearly proven too much of a challenge for Five Star is heading to Young’s, where scale puts it at a significant advantage, but we need to stop this race to the bottom, and undercutting of contracts to a level where it is not sustainable, and work on the consumer instead.

Much of what is eaten in Britain, processed in Grimsby, is whitefish, wild caught cod and haddock, from the now-sustainable North Sea and Icelandic Atlantic waters.  Vessels, albeit much bigger and stronger that Grimsby’s glory days, braving often appalling sea states to harvest the fruits from below.  Yet faced with paying as much as we may do for chicken, pork or beef, there’s resistance. We know the price of everything but the value of very little.

As a nation we’re not upping our consumption to the two portions a week desired level that nutritionists, dieticians and even the Government heartily recommends.  

Health benefits would ultimately be Grimsby’s benefit. We can ditch the batter, chuck the chips, but keeping our protein as seafood will be huge for this part of the world.

Efforts are being made. Seafish, the industry authority, has brought back Seafood Week and is seeing success. We need this to translate to the weekly shop, so the volumes we ship off to the supermarkets’ distribution hubs can grow, so too the town’s economy, rather than passing the salmon parcel around the factories and keeping the status quo.  

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