Nestle is set to axe 98 jobs at its York factory, it was revealed today.
And it plans to close another factory completely – in Fawdon, near Newcastle, which produces fruit pastilles – at the end of 2023, costing another 475 jobs.
The proposals – still only at consultation stage – were blasted as ‘heartless’ by unions, particularly as the decision comes during a global pandemic.
But Nestle UK said it was investing more than £20 million in the York factory, demonstrating its long-term commitment to “the proud home of our confectionery business”.
Nestle said the job losses were part of an efficiency drive “intended to support our long-term success in an increasingly competitive category”.
Production at Fawdon would move to other factories in the UK and Europe – but not York.
Unions accused Nestle of greed and heartlessness.
GMB national officer Ross Murdoch said: “To ruin hundreds of lives in a ruthless pursuit of profits, to the very workers who’ve kept the company going during a global pandemic, is sickening.
“Nestle is the largest food producer in the world, with astronomical profits. It can afford to treat workers right.
“Instead, they’ve allowed factories to deteriorate, outsourced production overseas and now slashed 600 jobs.
“It’s corporate greed at its worst – GMB and Unite will fight for every job.”
Unite’s Joe Clarke added: “The news about Nestle’s plans for its respective sites in Newcastle and York is a cruel body blow to the dedicated workforces, their families and, more widely, the regional economies.
“We will be asking for an urgent meeting with the management to ascertain the business rationale for these decisions from a multi-national company which is highly profitable.
“The fact these announcements have come during a global pandemic is particularly bitter and heartless.”
He said the two unions would be working together to “campaign against these misguided plans whose only motive seems to be increasing profits”.
‘We regret the uncertainty’
For its part, Nestle said that Fawdon is inefficient due to a complex mix of production techniques.
“The proposed changes would create a more efficient manufacturing footprint and, in turn, allow greater strategic investment in Nestlé’s biggest confectionery brands,” the company said.
It will make a £20.2 million investment at the York factory “to modernise and increase production of KitKat in the city where the brand was first created in 1935”.
Another £9.2 million will go to its Halifax factory to equip it to take on most of the Fawdon production.
The 98 York employees will be cut from a workforce of around 2,000. A number of different types of role are affected by the proposals including technicians, operator roles and packers
Nestle says the announcement came today “to provide the maximum time for consultation with our colleagues and trade unions”.
“We believe that the business case behind these proposed changes is compelling and, ultimately, the best way to keep our business competitive in the long term.
“Nevertheless, we very much regret the uncertainty this announcement will cause our people and their families and we want to make sure they are supported throughout this process.”