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By Chris Willmott Thursday 22 November 2012 Updated: 22/11 09:59
DEVASTATED workers at the Hovis plant in Garretts Green have spoken of their heartache at discovering their jobs are to be axed.
The owner of Hovis - Premier Foods - is to close two bakeries and cut 900 jobs as part of plans to overhaul the struggling bread business.
And the biggest impact will be felt in Garretts Green, where 511 jobs are to be lost with the closure of the factory and distribution operation.
Hovis operations at Greenford, west London, will also close, costing 196 jobs, while Premier Foods is also preparing to shut distribution sites at Plymouth and Mendlesham, Suffolk.
The closures are subject to consultation with employees but are scheduled to take place during the course of 2013.
One devastated employee told The Observer the news had left a black cloud over their family.
"Losing your job at any time is devastating, but there is something especially heartbreaking about it being at Christmas - the one time of the year where you try to forget all about your worries and just enjoy yourself," they said.
"That plan is out of the window now - I'm going to be spending most of it stressing and worrying about how I will pay the bills next year."
Another worker, who did not wish to be named, said staff had been expecting some sort of cuts after losing the supermarket deal, but not the closure of the entire factory.
"We can't believe it," he said.
"You go into work one day without a care and come home with a whole bag of them.
"I'm no spring chicken so getting another job at my age is going to be really difficult - I have no idea what I'm going to do to get by."
St Albans-based Premier, which also makes Mr Kipling cakes and Bisto gravy, has seen its Hovis division hit by intense competition in the bread market and a surge in wheat price inflation caused by poor weather.
It is set to lose a £75m-a-year contract with a major grocery chain from the middle of next year after failing to agree a new deal and is cutting 130 distribution routes and closing the supply centres to take into account the expected reduction in volumes.
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