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PepsiCo’s machines replace people as 87 jobs come under threat at Walkers

By Lorraine Mullaney , 14-Jan-2013
Last updated on 15-Jan-2013 at 16:18 GMT2013-01-15T16:18:15Z

PepsiCo is considering replacing 87 staff with modern packaging machines at its Walkers crisps factory in Lincoln.

In a statement issued to FoodManufacture.co.uk, the company announced that it was entering a consultation period with workers as it considered implementing “major changes” at its Lincoln facility.

Steve Switzer, site leader at Walkers Lincoln, said: “Like many businesses, we are continually reviewing our operations to ensure we remain competitive and take full advantage of future growth opportunities.

“Having looked extensively at our Lincoln site, we are announcing that we will invest to install new state-of-the-art packing equipment. This move will significantly change the way we pack our goods, improve efficiency and ensure Lincoln has the capacity to support the long-term growth of the Walkers business in the UK.

“As a result of this change we will be entering a consultation period at the site, which may result in the loss of around 87 of the 251 jobs on site.”

Unite the union is representing the employees in talks with Walkers management. The union was unable to comment on the situation at the time of going to press.

‘Double-edged sword’

Lincoln’s Conservative MP Karl McCartney said the decision to upgrade the equipment was the result of the continued success of the facility and the need for businesses such as PepsiCo to remain competitive.

In a statement issued to Food.Manufacture.co.uk he said: “At the same time, I can of course appreciate that the news of any potential redundancies is disappointing for those affected and, therefore, this development is clearly a double-edged sword.  

“However, I have been assured by senior representatives of PepsiCo that staff affected will receive full professional support and assistance to help them find a job elsewhere as part of their redundancy package.

“I know this decision was taken to ensure the long-term viability of the site and I certainly hope it will enhance the level of economic activity here in Lincoln and also ensure and enhance the likelihood of a continued successful Walkers’ production facility based here in my constituency.”

‘Tough decision’

Walkers said the investment would enable it to secure the future of the site in Lincoln.

Switzer said: “This has been a tough decision to make and we recognise that this is difficult news for some of our employees.

“I am personally grateful to all our staff for their continued dedication and commitment to Lincoln and, as we make these changes to secure the future of our site for many years to come, I would like to reassure all individuals impacted of our full support and assistance.”

The Lincoln site was originally the home of Smiths crisps and makes Quavers as well as some of the Walkers Sensations range.

In September last year, Walkers was ordered to pay £30,000 after a 400g block of compacted snack waste smashed into a worker at the Lincoln site, breaking his leg.

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