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Britvic Norwich factory closure confirmation is a ‘classic case of trying to bury bad news’, union says

PUBLISHED: 22:11 15 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:23 16 December 2017

The Britvic and Unilever site at Carrow Works in Norwich. Picture: Nick Butcher

The Britvic and Unilever site at Carrow Works in Norwich. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant

Britvic’s confirmation of the closure of its Norwich factory little more than a week before Christmas is a “hammer blow” that is “a classic case of trying to bury bad news”, a union has said.

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

The closure was first proposed in October, with more than 240 jobs put at risk.

The company has said it would look to redeploy staff where possible, although unions say that is unsuitable for many workers with production work located in Rugby, Leeds and London.

In a statement today, chief executive Simon Litherland said: “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.”

But Unite national officer for the food and drink sector Julia Long branded the announcement as “a classic case of trying to bury bad news”.

She said: “This is a hammer blow for the dedicated workforce and their families, especially when it comes just before Christmas.

“It is bad news for the wider Norfolk economy, especially as we face challenging economic times in 2018.

“Unite will work tirelessly with all key stakeholders to see what can be done, even at this 11th 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.

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

MORE: ‘A real kick in the teeth to the city of Norwich’ - MPs react to Britvic factory closure

Mr Litherland said it was a “sad and difficult time” for the company and its workers but that transferring production of Robinsons and Fruit Shoot to its other British manufacturing sites “will deliver significant productivity and efficiency savings in our manufacturing operations”.

However Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy, who has the Unilever portfolio, said: “It is very sad news that Britvic is closing its operations in Norwich which potentially has an impact on Unilever workers who the share the same site.

“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.”

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