A Tata spokesperson confirmed to FoodManufacture.co.uk that a consultation process with workers at the Eaglescliffe plant near Stockton on Tees has begun, as a result of changes to production processes involving a new machinery layout.
The factory is Tata’s only UK production site, and employs 471 workers, making it one of the largest tea manufacturing sites in the world.
Kick in the teeth
One employee told the local media: “It really is a kick in the teeth for the workers. They are absolutely gutted.”
Factory bosses embarked on a five-year plan in 2007 with the aim of increasing year-on-year efficiency. A senior manager said last year: “We aim to be the best factory in the UK, and that is something that we believe we have the people, systems and skills to achieve.”
He added: “Up until recently, the plant was running in the same way that it had been for the past 40 years, with people coming in, making tea bags, and thinking that the plant was going to be here forever. Then came the realisation that we had to change and adapt to remain competitive.”
The 40-year-old Teesside plant produces over 260m teabags per week, as well as fruit and herbal tea products for over 60 countries worldwide.
Tata claims to be the largest Indian employer in the UK, comprising 19 companies and a 42,000-strong workforce. It also claims to be the largest foreign investor in UK industry.
Tetey is not the only tea firm planning UK job cuts, with Twinings set to shed 392 UK positions in North Shields and Andover after it opened a new Polish site. One Andover employee told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the first jobs are likely to go at the site at the end of April, with the majority of staff affected following in June; redundancies are scheduled to begin at the North Shields site soon.