Dismay as Britvic announces city job losses

A soft drinks manufacturer has announced it will leave Norwich by 2020, meaning the loss of hundreds of jobs.

The CEO of Britvic, Simon Litherland, said the decision, which will see the loss of more than 240 jobs, had not been made lightly.

He said: “We understand that the outcome of the collective consultation process will be upsetting for our colleagues in Norwich.

“It is a sad and difficult time. I want to thank everyone at Norwich, past and present, for their dedication, hard work and commitment, and I would like to say again that this decision is in no way a reflection of their performance.”

A Britvic spokesperson told Concrete: “As we have previously said, the site will close towards the end of 2019.

“We will be offering every impacted Britvic employee a package of support, including redeployment opportunities at our other sites, training, and working with outplacement services to help find alternative employment.”

However, the company would not comment on the nature of the support package they would be offering employees, when the first redundancy notices would be served, or the number and location of redeployment offers.

The company are best known for producing Robinson’s Squash and Fruit Shoot drinks.

In October, Britvic announced they were considering moving production from their Bracondale site, in the south of Norwich, to sites in London, Rugby and Leeds.

The move was confirmed on Friday, reportedly on the same afternoon as the company’s Christmas dinner. The site’s co-owners Unilever have been informed of the move.

Britvic said the move will “improve the efficiency and productivity” of their manufacturing operations and reduce their environmental impact”.

However, trade unions expressed concern about the decision.

Unite has more than thirty members at the Norwich site.

Julia Long, the union’s National Officer for the food and drink sector accused Britvic of “trying to bury bad news” after the announcement was made two weeks before Christmas.

She continued: “This is a hammer blow for the dedicated workforce and their families.

“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 eleventh hour.”

The GMB Union, which has more than 150 members employed by Britvic, said they will not comment until a discussion with its members is held in the new year.

However, the union’s Regional Officer, Ivan Mercer, previously claimed the consultation on the move was deeply flawed.

He said: “There is a strong feeling that this process is being rushed, and that there has not been any meaningful consultation with the workforce or their Consultative Group.

“[Britvic] have admitted to withholding from the Consultative Group a key report into the site operations.”

Clive Lewis, whose Norwich South constituency includes the factory, said he felt “so, so sorry” for those affected.

He described the decision as “a real kick in the teeth to the city of Norwich.”

Mr Lewis continued: “It’s a real body blow for staff who have worked so hard and they have every right to feel hard done by.

“It’s an awful time of year for this to happen and they have to go back to their families knowing the company is leaving.”

Chris Starkie, the chief executive of local trade body the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “While disappointed at Britvic’s decision, our efforts now turn to supporting their workers into alternative employment.

“This work includes matching up expanding businesses with workers and suppliers with specific skills and expertise.”

Britvic’s offer of reassignment to its other production plants is unlikely to be an attractive proposition for many of the workforce. The the firm’s closest UK operations are in London, over 90 miles from the Norwich site and Rugby, 110 miles away.

The announcement casts further doubt over the future of workers at Unilever, who manufacture the iconic Norwich brand Colman’s Mustard at the Carrow Works site.

After Britvic first revealed its proposal to leave, Unilever announced a review into their own Norwich operations. Employees are not expecting to learn about their futures until the review is concluded in early 2018.


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Tony Allen

May 2021
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