Union slams Coca-Cola as closure of Milton Keynes factory is confirmed

The Coca-Cola manufacturing site in Northfield will close it has been announced
The Coca-Cola manufacturing site in Northfield will close it has been announced

Union bosses have hit out at Coca-Cola after it was announced that a manufacturing site would be closed in Milton Keynes.

The factory, in Northfield, is expected to begin closing in early 2019, and to finally close in late 2019.

A second site in Northampton will also be shut, and this will affect all 288 workers employed across the two - some of whom may agree to move to different locations while others will be made redundant.

The decision has left GMB, which represents the MK workers, fuming.

The union’s regional officer, Richard Owen, said: “I am very unhappy that we have not been able to persuade Coca-Cola to change course, but I cannot say that I am surprised.

“I am equally unhappy that the 45-day consultation period was treated as the absolute maximum. As the plants are not going to be closing until next year, we feel it would not have been too much to ask to keep discussions open for another few weeks. Coca-Cola, however, have closed the consultation with us precisely on the 45th day.

“We have spent the last 45 days trying to get Coca-Cola to tell us the exact profit figures of the output from Milton Keynes and Northampton, and what that is worth to Coca-Cola Europe, but the company continually refused to tell us, claiming that they do not have access to those gross profit figures.

“If the sites were making a loss, we could understand this decision to close them. But by our calculations the Milton Keynes factory is probably generating £100 million or more a year for Coca-Cola. Staff in Milton Keynes were even congratulated last year after being named the most efficient factory in terms of ‘cost-per-case’ in Europe. Weeks later the same staff were told the factory would be closing.

“Coca-Cola believe that they can save £12 million a year by closing the two sites. For a company that is making £1.7 billion a year in profit, £12 million is barely a scratch. For the sake of a small amount in the grand scheme of The Coca-Cola Company, 300 people are going to be thrown out of work.

“We think that is a pretty scant reward for the 40 years of dedicated labour that has been put into these sites, and do not think that it is justified.”

A Coca-Cola European Partners spokesman said that the closure was ‘not a reflection on the performance or professionalism of our colleagues at these sites’, but that ‘it was the right way forward for our business’.

The statement added: “After consulting with employees and their representatives for 55 days we have taken the decision to move ahead with proposals to close our manufacturing site in Milton Keynes and our distribution centre in Northampton.

“Under these plans the closures will take place across 2019, impacting a total of 288 roles across the two sites.

“We are committed to supporting all those impacted throughout the process of closure and beyond, by offering training and development opportunities, as well as tailored outplacement support.

“In addition, there will be redeployment opportunities within our business with the creation of 121 new roles across our manufacturing and distribution network.

“Whilst this was a difficult decision to make, we believe it is the right way forward for our business. It will allow us to significantly improve productivity and create greater efficiency for our business in Great Britain, allowing us to continue to grow in this increasingly dynamic market.

“We will be transferring all production and warehousing from Milton Keynes and Northampton to other GB sites and will continue to invest in our business to support long-term growth.”

Coca-Cola have guaranteed during consultations that no jobs will be forcibly lost until 2019, but Mr Owen says the firm is paying ‘lip-service’ to its workforce.

He added: “We still don’t think it is too late for this decision to be reversed, although Coca-Cola do seem to be intent on pushing ahead with it.

“The bottom line is the one thing which large, international companies always put as priority number one. £1.7 billion is more cash than most ordinary working folk can even dream about, but for Coca-Cola, it’s clearly not quite enough.

“It is another sad day for manufacturing in our region, which continues to decline, and a slap in the face for two towns which have helped generate a fortune for this company over the last 40 years.”

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