Unite: Britvic and Colman’s factory closures are not a done deal – we must fight them

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy. Picture: Martin Scanlon.

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy. Picture: Martin Scanlon. - Credit: Archant

The manufacturing jobs at Britvic and Colman's are too important to East Anglia to lose, writes Rhys McCarthy, national officer for Unite the union.

The announcement of the closure of the Britvic plant in Norwich and the review by Unilever of its iconic Colman Mustard production has sent shockwaves through Norfolk.

Unite, as the county's largest union with members at Britvic and Unilever, will be standing foursquare behind the 300-plus workers under threat of losing their jobs and with the wider campaign, being spearheaded by the Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News, to save these historic manufacturing operations in Norwich.

Unite believes that a healthy manufacturing sector is vital for the well-being of the British economy, especially as the challenges posed by Brexit loom. The corporation taxes that flow into the treasury from industry and commerce provide the finances necessary to provide good schools and hospitals that we all benefit from.

East Anglia is not overflowing with manufacturing jobs and in neighbouring Suffolk, more than 500 jobs losses at the Sudbury-based Delphi Diesel Systems were confirmed in August.

We don't believe that the Britvic soft drinks closure with the loss of 242 jobs by the end of 2019 is 'a done deal' and we also think that Unilever, which is undertaking a review of its half of the joint site that produces Colman's Mustard, could be influenced in a positive fashion by a well put-together business case.

To this end, Unite will be working with the city council, the GMB union and Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, and wishes to engage with other interested stakeholders and the wider public – we all have the same goal.

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Local farmers provide about 1,500 tons of mustard seed to sell to Colman's, so any future decision will have an impact on the supply chain and wider employment.

We recognise that we live an age of globalisation and multi-national companies where returns for shareholders are paramount. Workers, their families and the communities in which they live are often secondary considerations.

We don't believe that this has to be so when you have a dedicated workforce willing to adjust to change. We must all make the case for manufacturing in Norwich and across East Anglia.

Colman's Mustard is Norwich and Norwich is Colman's Mustard with a heritage stretching back to 1814. It is worth fighting for.