JOBS are to go at Fox's biscuits in Batley - but the plant will remain open.
Fox’s owner Northern Foods is spending £26.5 million on introducing robot technology at plants in Batley in West Yorkshire, Kirkham in Lancashire and Uttoxeter, Staffordshire.
Leeds-based Northern said the new equipment will lead to the loss of about 300 jobs at Batley and Uttoxeter although about 80 positions are being created at Kirkham.
However, the company also provided a stay of execution for remaining workers as it put plans to close either Batley or Uttoxeter on hold.
In July last year, Northern set out proposals for a £50 million hi-tech facility, which would have led to the closure of one of the two sites and the loss of up to 1,000 jobs.
Northern today halted the process due to the rising cost of investment linked to unfavourable exchanges rates and an uncertain economic environment.
However, Northern added that plans to cut its number of sites from three to two remained an objective and said it would review its strategy in 18 months.
The robotic technology will include new machines to provide packing functions at the factories.
The Batley plant currently employs 950 staff, while Uttoxeter and Kirkham have 850 and 400 workers respectively.
It comes after the recent investment by Northern in the Fox’s Biscuits brand, including a successful multi-million pound advertising campaign featuring cartoon character Vinnie.
The firm added that it plans a £2 million marketing campaign for its Matthew Walker Christmas puddings.
The announcement came as Northern, which also makes Goodfella’s and San Marco pizza, announced underlying pre-tax profits of £12.9 million for the half-year to September 26, up from £12.7 million a year earlier.
Including one-off costs, the firm posted profits of £12.9 million, up from a loss of £17.1 million a year ago when it was hit by large restructuring and tax charges.
Like-for-like sales rose 2.9% driven by growth at its chilled and bakery divisions.
Total sales fell to £466.9 million from £468.6 million, reflecting the mothballing of its Fenland Foods ready meals facility in Grantham.
Stefan Barden, chief executive, said: "Market conditions remain competitive but at this stage of the year, our sales and profit expectations for the current financial year remain unchanged, and in line with market expectations."
Shares in the company, which fell sharply last month after a disappointing trading update, gained 2% today.
Nicolas Ceron, analyst at Numis, said the half-year results were slightly ahead of expectations but added that profitable growth "remains a challenge".