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GMB union claims Britvic failed to “consult meaningfully” with staff over Norwich factory closure

PUBLISHED: 14:00 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:19 04 January 2018

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

A union has called for government intervention in the closure of the Britvic’s Norwich factory after the firm allegedly failed to “meaningfully consult” with staff over the plans.

Business Secretary Greg Clark has confirmed the government has been in contact with Britvic and UnileverBusiness Secretary Greg Clark has confirmed the government has been in contact with Britvic and Unilever

GMB is urging business secretary Greg Clark to intervene following alleged failures by the soft drinks group’s directors to comply with consultation rules.

The firm announced in early October that it was planning to close its factory on Bracondale, where more than 240 people are employed.

A consultation with staff and union representatives was concluded at the end of last week, with the announcement that the factory closure would go ahead in 2019.

In a letter to Mr Clark, GMB has detailed what it calls the “systemic failure of Britvic to meaningfully consult its workforce” due to a “predetermined decision” to close the site.

But Britvic has said it “unreservedly refutes” the “baseless” allegations.

Shaun Graham, GMB senior organiser, said Britvic had demonstrated a “hostile approach to industrial relations”.

“We firmly believe that Britvic has never intended to meaningfully consult on any alternatives to closure, and the manner in which it has conducted the consultation and the ‘advice’ it has provided to the market clearly support this view,” he said.

“Britvic’s independent directors have twice now been invited to independently meet the workforce and members of the local community regarding the proposed closure, and asked to secure a pause on the proposed closure to enable constructive negotiations to be undertaken to identify potential compromises.

“Twice they have refused, though immediately after being petitioned two directors resigned, which the unions believe is a sign of a divided board.

Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, said: “With trade unions at Britvic, throughout the consultation before closure I’ve been raising the alarm about how the process seemed to exist only to give the company the answers they wanted. And now the GMB union has the evidence to show that the consultation was not meaningful as Britvic had already made a decision to close the site.”

A Britvic spokesman said it conducted a “full and proper” consultation, which stakeholders unanimously agreed to close last week.

“When we announced our preliminary results, we made it very clear that the proposal to close our Norwich site remained just that – a proposal,” she said.

“We have engaged meaningfully with our employees throughout the consultation process; exploring any counter proposal in depth and providing the consultation group with detailed information on the business case that sat behind our proposal.

“We have also made every effort to engage with the wider community. Both local Norwich MPs conducted surgeries at the site and we were pleased to meet other local stakeholders.”

A government spokesman said: “This is clearly a worrying time for Britvic workers and their families at the company’s Norwich plant. The government has been in close contact with the company, local MPs and the LEP and as Britvic has made clear, this decision is no reflection on the performance of the site’s highly-skilled workforce.”

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