‘Very sad... Unilever will be judged by generosity of support to staff’ – Sir Timothy Colman on Norwich factory closure

Sir Timothy Colman, pictured in 2012. Photo: Archant.

Sir Timothy Colman, pictured in 2012. Photo: Archant.

The head of Norfolk's famous Colman family has described the closure of company's Norwich factory as 'very sad', and said that focus must now fall on supporting workers.

Speaking for the first time about the departure from the Carrow Works, Sir Timothy Colman sent his sympathies to employees now facing an uncertain future following Unilever's decision to move much of its production out of the county.

'This news is very sad indeed,' he said. 'I'm deeply sympathetic to those who will be affected.

'Unilever have made this decision for their own advantage and they will be judged on the generosity of their support for the employees affected.'

Sir Timothy Colman is the great-great-grandson of James Colman, nephew of founder Jeremiah Colman who established the business near Stoke Holy Cross in 1814. It was brought to Carrow Works in 1858 by Jeremiah James Colman, Sir Timothy's great-grandfather.

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Sir Timothy added: 'I do recognise that businesses have to keep up to date with the trading circumstances of the markets in which they operate.

'The immediate reaction of everybody is that if this has to happen, we are deeply concerned that Unilever is fair and generous in how it treats its employees.'

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When Unilever first announced its review of the Norwich factory in October, Sir Timothy's son James suggested Unilever had put

profits above tradition with 'the hard-nosed pragmatism of big business'.

'I believe our fine independently-minded city deserves better treatment than this,' he said at the time.

'In the overall scheme of Unilever's masterplan this is small scale but the impact felt will be significant. It will score into the identity and culture of our past present and future.'

Sir Timothy is a former Lord Lieutenant for Norfolk and was the chairman of Eastern Counties Newspapers Group between 1969 and 1996.

He worked in the family business himself, becoming manager of the Carrow factory under Reckitt and Colman, and later joining the board as a non-executive director.

The Colman family's involvement in the senior management of the business ended in 1995, the year it was sold to Unilever, when Sir Michael Colman's tenure as chairman came to an end.

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