Unite’s national officer for the food and drink sector, Jennie Formby, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that while there was no direct evidence of a connection, “It is difficult to believe that these two events are not linked.”
The job losses underlined the need for a ‘Cadbury’s Law’ designed to ensure full disclosure of business plans from the start of any takeover campaign, she said.
“Since Kraft’s disastrous takeover of Cadbury we have repeatedly made the case for a Cadbury’s law to protect British companies from predatory takeovers by companies where a sometimes reckless pursuit of shareholder value is more important than vital jobs in British manufacturing.
“Our members must not pay the price of takeovers with their jobs and conditions. Unite will be fighting very hard to protect our members’ interests at this very grim time.”
On their knees
Unite described the job losses at Minsterley as “a devastating blow” to the local economy. They follow 50 redundancies already announced for March 2012, following the firm’s decision to end yogurt-making at the south Shropshire facility.
Unite regional officer Mike Tuff said: “A total of 400 jobs losses is a devastating blow for this community. It is situated in a rural area where finding alternative work will be very difficult, especially at a time when the economy in general and manufacturing in particular are on their knees.
“I will be having urgent talks with Uniq’s management at Minsterley to get the full details and to make it clear that we will be doing everything in our power to save our members' jobs.”
Earlier this week, Uniq announced plans to halt production of ‘everyday’ desserts at the south Shropshire food plant in June 2012. The company told the stock market that it wanted to focus production on more profitable premium desserts rather than everyday, cheaper, own-label products.
A spokesman for Uniq denied any link between the job losses and Greencore’s takeover bid. “There is no link between the two; they are completely separate issues,” he said.
The job losses are the result of a business review initiated by Uniq at the start of this year prior to the offer period, he added.
About 100 staff will remain at Minsterley to produce licensed dessert products for Muller and Cadbury.
Some production of everyday desserts will transfer to Uniq’s sister site at Evercreech in Somerset, which already produces desserts for Marks & Spencer.
Meanwhile, Greencore expects to complete its acquisition of Uniq, pending approval from the Office of Fair Trading, at the end of next month.