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Friday 14 December 2018

Christmas bonus axed as LacPatrick tightens belt

LacPatrick is one of the biggest dairy co-ops in the Border region
LacPatrick is one of the biggest dairy co-ops in the Border region
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A series of cuts for staff at LacPatrick Co-op were announced last week by management following warnings that the financial situation at the business remained "difficult".

However, a co-op spokesman insisted that payments to its 900 milk suppliers would not be delayed this month.

In a statement read out to staff at LacPatrick's three operating centres in Monaghan town, Ballyrashane and Artigarvan, management said "urgent measures" were required to "reduce costs and support the survival of the business until the merger with Lakelands completes".

The cuts announced mean the co-op:

• Is unable to pay a Christmas bonus this year - which is usually worth two weeks' wages;

• Is unable to continue with service pay for long-serving staff;

• Is reducing Bank Holiday pay to double time;

• Is suspending its sick pay scheme.

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"We all appreciate the significance of these actions and the impact they will have; however, there is a requirement for us to consider any and all measures in order to try and ensure the continued operations and job security within the business," LacPatrick management told its 400 staff.

"While it is hoped these changes will be limited in duration, it is likely they will be required until completion of the merger.

Replying to queries from the Farming Independent, a LacPatrick spokesman confirmed that payments for October milk will not be delayed this month. He said payments were due to be in farmers' accounts next Sunday, November 25.

Last month payments to the co-op's suppliers were delayed by 24 to 48 hours following what the processor described as "administrative difficulties".

Sustainable

In relation to the changes in worker conditions, the spokesman said: "The board and management of LacPatrick are committed to running the LacPatrick business in a profitable and sustainable manner. The co-op must return the maximum milk price to our farmer suppliers and this can only be done by being as efficient as possible."

He said the measures outlined were being taken in the midst of a "severe downturn in the dairy markets which is on a par with two years ago".

LacPatrick and Lakeland Dairies suppliers overwhelmingly backed a merger move in a shareholder vote last month. The merger process is due to be finalised in the spring.

Meanwhile, the LacPatrick spokesman said the recent closure of the co-op's Artigarvan plant was due to ongoing maintenance and he said it will be fully operational by the end of this week.

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