Britvic factory closure plans slammed by union

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Unite the union has slammed Britvic’s plan to close its Norwich factory. Image courtesy of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
Unite the union has slammed Britvic’s plan to close its Norwich factory. Image courtesy of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Related tags: Robinsons

Soft drinks manufacturer Britvic’s plans to close its Norwich factory, confirmed Friday afternoon (December 15), have been slammed by Unite the Union.

The union described the plans as “a hammer blow for the workers and the economy of Norwich in the run up to Christmas”​. It accused Britvic of trying to “bury bad news” ​by sneaking it out when people were busy preparing for Christmas.

Unite regional officer for food and drink Julia Long said the union would continue to try to keep the factory open, up to the “eleventh hour”.

“We have about 32 engineering and maintenance members at the Britvic site and we will be providing maximum support and assistance to them in the difficult days and weeks ahead,” ​she said.

“We will be exploring with the company suitable redeployment opportunities within the Britvic group.”

Move production

The proposal will see production of the company’s Robinsons and Fruit Shoot drinks moved to its manufacturing sites in East London, Leeds and Rugby towards the end of next year.

On Friday (December 15), Britvic said it would offer every Britvic employee who would be impacted by the closure with a package of support, including redeployment opportunities at its other sites and outplacement services to help find alternative employment.

Ceo Simon Litherland added: “This was not a proposal that we made lightly and we understand that the outcome of the collective consultation process will be upsetting for our colleagues in Norwich. It is a sad and difficult time.

“I want to thank everyone at Norwich, past and present, for their dedication, hard work and commitment, and I would like to say again that this decision is in no way a reflection of their performance.”

Urged Britvic to halt the planned closure

Last month, Unite and the GMB union urged Britvic to halt the planned closure, as they questioned the fairness of the company’s consultation process.

The closure also raised questions over the future of Unilever’s operations at the site, which it shared with Britvic. The company is understood to be still conducting a review of its half of the site.

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said: “We have a number of engineering workers on the Unilever site and we will be redoubling our efforts in the next week to get more clarity as to the future of the Unilever part of the site.

“The iconic Colman's Mustard has been produced at the same factory since the 1860s and Unite would strongly like that manufacturing tradition to continue.”

Meanwhile, in October, Unilever remained quiet on claims it intended to move nearly 150 jobs from the UK to the Netherlands,​ in a plan to create a new global headquarters for food and drink brands.

Last week, it agreed the long-awaited sale of its global Spreads business to private equity firm KKR for £6.031bn (€6.825bn).

Related topics: Drinks

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