PRESSURE is being put on Marks and Spencer to prevent the closure of Pinneys seafood factory in Annan where nearly 600 people are set to lose their jobs.

The retail giant has been told it will bear responsibility for the human consequences that will follow closure of the factory, one of the town’s biggest employers. M&S has been accused of leaving the factory vulnerable to increased production costs by insisting it produced food exclusively for them.

Young’s, who operate the factory, announced last week it had abandoned its M&S contracts for deli and prepared meals, produced at Pinneys, stating these were no longer financially viable.

This was despite a £600,000 investment in the plant by Young’s to meet M&S requirements. The rest of the contracts for “natural salmon” or fillets are being moved to Young’s Grimsby plant along with 200 jobs.

However, in a letter to M&S chairman Archie Norman, MSP Joan McAlpine pointed out that customers expect Scottish salmon to be wholly produced in Scotland.

She also claims she had been told that M&S expected Young’s to absorb too much of the 25 per cent increase in the cost of salmon, which has risen sharply because of a global shortage. She said Youngs had tried to negotiate new production methods with M&S, such as saving on waste by throwing away less salmon deemed to have tiny cosmetic flaws.

However, the retailer allegedly refused to compromise and refused to pass any more cost on to shoppers. McAlpine said the threat to the 427 permanent and up to 150 seasonal jobs makes a mockery of M&S’s well publicised charter of social responsibility – known as “Plan A” – where it says it puts people and communities first.

“We are all aware of the unfair price demands some supermarkets put on farmers and other food suppliers – but would expect better of M&S,” she said. “But from what I have been told, M&S is just as guilty. It has too much power over suppliers and in the case of Pinneys, I believe it has abused that power without a second thought for the workers.”

McAlpine said the closure would have a knock-on effect on other local businesses, meaning even more jobs would be lost, adding that it was a “dreadful” way to treat a community which had given the company many years of loyal service and high quality work. The factory opened in 1976 and became smoked salmon supplier to the Queen.

“Many of the Young’s workers facing redundancy are from the same family and have spent decades producing top quality seafood for your customers. You have discarded them like spent packaging,” said McAlpine in her letter.

She asked if M&S had taken any steps to help the factory retain their contracts and urged the company to live up to its commitment to “paying a fair price to suppliers, supporting local communities and making sure everyone working in our supply chains enjoys good working conditions”.

Mcalpine has now urged M&S to work with Youngs, the Scottish Government and local council to retain jobs in the town. A petition to save the factory has so far attracted thousands of signatures.

An M&S spokesperson said: “M&S is committed to paying a fair price to our suppliers and we are working closely with them, as part of our transformation programme, to create a faster supply base and improve value and availability for our customers.”