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Bernard Matthews to stop free buses

PUBLISHED: 13:33 13 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:02 03 July 2010

SHIFT workers at two Bernard Matthews factories have been told they will no longer be given free transport to and from work.

The union Unite has spoken out in opposition to the new £3.

SHIFT workers at two Bernard Matthews factories have been told they will no longer be given free transport to and from work.

The union Unite has spoken out in opposition to the new £3.50 per day charge to workers who use the bus transport to and from the factories in Holton, Suffolk, and Great Witchingham, in Norfolk.

But the company, which has footed the transport bill for its workers at the two sites for more than 30 years, says increased travel costs have led it to make the decision to set the £1.75 single journey fee, which amounts to less than one third of the full amount.

The company uses 30 buses to run 12 routes through Norfolk and Suffolk to cover every shift at both factories, transporting people from rural areas as well as from Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

Ivan Crane, regional industrial organiser for Unite, said he was “disappointed” with the announcement made on Monday.

“Making a charge for transport to and from work that many have used for years and that others have based their employment decision on (ie free travel) will cause, for many, considerable hardship, particularly when our members are already under tremendous pressure,” he said.

Mr Crane said the payment was “unrealistic” to people already on low wages, adding: “This is a workforce that has shown its loyalty, commitment and flexibility time and time again over recent years and they continue to do so through this difficult time.

“We believe the company sees this as a soft target where they can make savings and we are disappointed about that. Our members believe they deserve better.”

He said that Unite had asked the turkey giant to rethink the proposals and that it would seek further meetings with the firm.

A spokesman for the company said: “Bernard Matthews can confirm that from the March 30, 2009, workers who use buses provided by the company to travel to work will be asked to pay a contribution towards the running costs.

“We are one of the last remaining companies to provide free transport for staff. However, because of increased running costs we've had to implement a small charge for travel, which will ensure we can continue to provide buses for our staff. The business will continue to subsidise 70pc of the costs of the bus travel.”

Although the company could not say the level of employees who use the service, the spokesman said it was less than half of the workforce.

Earlier this month, Bernard Matthews Farms unveiled plans to build nine wind turbines in a move towards green energy, five of which would be built close to the Holton site, near Halesworth.

Last month, it announced it would cut 130 jobs at its head office and production facility at Great Witchingham.

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