THE 300 workers at the Tayto crisps and snacks factory in Tandragee Castle are working extra shifts round the clock to fill a gap in production created by a raging fire in the company’s South Wales plant.
The fire in the Tayto factory at Sirhowey in the Welsh Valleys is alleged to have been started deliberately, with a former employee charged with arson. The incident has left 115 production staff fearing for the loss of their as the firm decides how to deal with the crisis.
Production has been transferred to the firm’s other five factories, a large proportion of it to Tandragee, which - like Sirhowey - specialises in pan-fried crisps. And it could become permanent with Tayto chiefs wondering whether it would be economic to re-build and re-fit the Welsh factory, which has been totally destroyed.
Over the past couple of weeks, a number of workers from Wales have travelled over to Tandragee to help shore up the production here, but that is a temporary measure. They will be fully paid until the end of October when the difficult decision about their future is made, given that the 115 jobs are vital to the village.
Paul Allen, the Tayto chief executive said, “The fire in South Wales devastated the factory there and we have had to move what production we can to Tandragee. The plant in Wales specialised in hand-fried crisps and that’s something which we can also do here, so several of our Welsh colleagues are travelling back and forth to work at the Castle.
“It’s obviously not a sustainable solution in the long term, but they have been very flexible and the local people have welcomed them very warmly, especially under the circumstances. I think people here recognise what the impact must be like for the community in Sirhowey where the fire happened. We are always busy at this time of year, anyway, when we start the run up to Christmas and the party season, but this has certainly increased production further.”
However, it looks as if redundancies in Sirhowey are inevitable, with much of the production transferred to Tandragee where more jobs will be created. Mr Allen pointed out that, only a few weeks ago, production had to be stepped up in the Welsh outlet, “but now we are looking at redundancies”. Tayto are in talks with the Welsh Government to try and work out a long-term plan, but the short-term prospects for Wales are not hopeful.
Tayto started on small scale in the 1960s by three local businessmen - Tommy Hutchinson, Fred McKinney and Walter Gracey - with cheese-and-onion the big seller. Now they employ 300 at ‘The Castle’ and around 6,000 in their outlets. Expansion has been spectacular with Tayto buying over giants like Golden Wonder and manufacturing for the global Proctor and Gamble name.
Tandragee, though, is the headquarters of its brand.