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Exclusive: Leaked document shows Britvic already offering redundancies

PUBLISHED: 06:58 14 October 2017

Britvic has announced plans to close its Norwich factory. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Britvic has announced plans to close its Norwich factory. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

A leaked internal document outlining Britvic’s plans to close its Norwich site has revealed voluntary redundancies are already being offered.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, right, speaks to Unite regional officer Miles Hubbard at the Unilever Colman's factory in Norwich. Picture: D Faulkner Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, right, speaks to Unite regional officer Miles Hubbard at the Unilever Colman's factory in Norwich. Picture: D Faulkner

The news will come as a blow to the almost 300 workers who had been told the future of the Bracondale site remained undecided.

The document, seen by this newspaper and entitled ‘Collective Consultation: Meeting 1’, outlines the savings the company expect the move to make, the two planned phases to shut down production and that some employees are already being offered the chance to leave.

The document, which was produced for a meeting held on October 10, states:

• Proposed closure of the Norwich site, in two phases, following full and proper consultation. Phase 1 proposed to be June 2018. Phase 2 proposed to be no earlier than June 2019 but before the end of September 2019;

• Overall benefit of proposal: £11m – £14m (year on year);

• We propose to open a voluntary redundancy process. Open from Wednesday 11th October.

The briefing also suggests 249 jobs plus a further 47 agency and temporary positions are at risk. Britvic had previously said 242 jobs were under consultation.

Labour’s Clive Lewis said he feared Britvic were not “committed to a meaningful consultation”.

“When Britvic made the announcement about the Norwich site, the company told us that this was a proposal, the final decision had not been made, they would run a meaningful consultation and listen to what they were told,” the Norwich South MP said.

“But this document given to local managers suggests something else. How can the company claim that “no decisions have been made” when two days into the consultation period they start offering voluntary redundancies to staff?

“That is not the action of a company committed to meaningful consultation. Britvic employees and our city deserve to be listened to properly.”

A Britvic spokesman said: “As we announced last week, and as the document clearly states, the proposal we have made to close the Norwich site towards the end of 2019 is just that – a proposal – and no decisions have been made. We have entered into collective consultation with employees at the site and our energy and focus is on that process and on supporting them through what we know is a difficult time.

“We are consulting with our colleagues on our proposal to close the site towards the end of 2019, including a proposed potential reduction in headcount of 39 in summer 2018. As part of this we have discussed with employee representatives whether they would like to, as part of the collective consultation process, discuss the possibility of offering voluntary redundancy in relation to the proposed reduction in headcount next summer. No voluntary redundancies have been offered.

“There are 242 permanent Britvic employees on site. To help us manage fluctuations in operational demand, we engage agency and fixed term contract workers in some areas of the site.”

The news comes as Conservative Norwich North MP Chloe Smith confirmed she has spoken with the Department for Work and Pensions to make sure their rapid response service is available for the workforce of both companies. Ms Smith also said she has spoken with Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, as well as Ministers at DEFRA and Department for International Trade.

She added: “I know this a difficult and uncertain time for everyone working for Britvic and Unilever in Norwich. We need to continue to make the case for both businesses staying in Norwich and I hope that the public will continue to demonstrate the strength of feeling there is for these sites to remain open.”

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