Workers take to streets as battle over Britvic job losses marches onwards
PUBLISHED: 17:53 10 September 2018 | UPDATED: 18:59 10 September 2018
Britvic workers armed with union flags took to the streets of Norwich to demand a better redundancy deal for their lowest-paid colleagues.
The protest was the latest action in an ongoing pay battle between the GMB union and Britvic since the company announced it would close its Norwich factory.
Alongside neighbouring company Colman’s, Britvic said last year that it would be leaving the Norwich Carrow Work site in summer next year, putting 242 jobs at risk.
Drinks company Britvic has refused to succumb to the pressure, saying that “the GMB’s actions will not achieve larger enhanced redundancy payments”.
The group of around 30 people marched around the city centre to The Forum, protesting a situation they claim will see Britvic’s lowest-paid employees receive a third of the package being offered to their Colman’s counterparts.
Workers on the protest said those with an annual salary of around £20,000 would receive that amount in their package, and argue that a loyalty sum of £4,500 to stay with the company until closure is not enough.
Britvic has maintained that it is giving workers an “enhanced” package “substantially larger than the amount [it is] legally obliged to pay.”
Norwich’s Martyn Hart is a technology operator with the firm. He said: “What Britvic legally have to pay us is hardly anything – it’s like saying they’re helping us by paying more than the minimum wage. They’re calling it an enhanced package but they’re a massive corporation comparing it against the bare minimum.”
He added that the some of the company’s most loyal employees had been hit the hardest. “Some that have been here the longest are on the lowest wage. People have been here 30-plus years, and they’re walking away with so little in the grand scheme of things, after all that time.”
He added: “There’s no end in sight on how long the strikes will go on. I can only speak for myself, but I’d strike one day a week until the site closes.”
The union will meet with Britvic bosses on September 14, and said they are hopeful for negotiation on the package.
Sean Graham, acting GMB regional officer, said: “It’s not just about getting these people the deal they deserve, it’s about the way that Britvic have treated their employees and their union.”
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis also offered his support to the protestors, writing to Mr Graham: “A piece of our collective city history and the livelihood of thousands of people – directly and indirectly – will be trashed forever by corporate giants who care nothing except for the bottom line; for extra shareholder value; for the last ounce of profit to be extracted – whatever the cost to both workers and city.
“The Britvic and Unilever job losses should be a wake-up call to this city and county that there no future in this current system of exploitation. That change must happen and we must all play our part.”