Trade unions GMB and Unite say Unilever has some serious questions to answer about whether information was withheld from staff regarding the closure of its Colman’s mustard facility in Norwich.
Following this announcement, which was made in January 2018, the company decided to move its mustard production to Burton on Trent, and some to Germany, with a new site opening in Norwich.
The closure of the factory was thought to impact 113 jobs, with 43 transferred to the site in Burton on Trent, 20 to the new facility in Norwich, and other workers being made redundant.
It has now been revealed that documents released under Freedom of information (FOI) requests show discrepancies between what Unilever told the Secretary of State, BEIS and what was shared with the staff consultation group.
The documents also record Unilever offering the Secretary of State a “compromise” before any final decision had been made.
Rhys McCarthy, Unite national officer, said: “Unite is extremely concerned by the lack of transparency and disclosure during the Unilever Norwich site review and consultation.”
He added: “Business secretary Greg Clark must do the right thing and investigate.”
The unions have written to Greg Clark, secretary of state for business and energy, asking for clarity on why his department alegedly were told one thing, and Unilever workers and their unions told another.
Eamon O’Hearn, GMB national officer, also commented: “Many members of the workforce and wider community believe that Unilever had already made a decision to close Norwich.
“As it stands, Norwich stands to lose up to 1,000 jobs and nearly £10M worth of wages and incomes from the local economy, which would be a devastating blow to the local area.”
Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, added: “Norwich really does deserve better than this.”
A spokesperson for Unilever told Food Management Today: “We absolutely refute that there are any discrepancies between what we have discussed in our employee Consultation Group and what we have said to other stakeholders. We have always been clear that we would consider a range of options during the review of our factory following Britvic’s decision to leave our shared site.
“These options were discussed and evaluated with significant input from our Consultation Group over a three month period, and we then went into a formal consultation process following the announcement of our own proposals in January where we discussed them in detail. Union representatives for our employees on site have been actively present and involved throughout the review and our consultation process.”