'It couldn't even afford a stamp to send the reply' - Unions hit out at response from Britvic directors

PUBLISHED: 16:19 05 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:37 06 December 2017

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

Union members have hit out at a response from Britvic's independent directors which they say shows "how little regard" they have for Norwich.

In November, unions GMB and Unite wrote to four non-executive directors to convey their concerns about the potential closure of the Norwich site and disappointment over how the process had been handled.

The plans to close the factory in 2019 were announced in October, and put a question mark over the future of the Unilever-owned Colman’s Mustard factory, which shares the site.

In a response on behalf of all four, Ian McHoul, senior independent director, said they recognised “what a difficult time this must be”, and said they have “full confidence” the management team would handle the process properly.

But Ivan Mercer, GMB regional organiser, criticised the response in a letter, saying it showed “little regard” for those affected.

MORE: Petition to keep Colman’s and Britvic in Norwich tops 10,000 signatures

Writing to the independent directors, he said: “The fact that it has taken three weeks for the reply to be delivered to GMB in an envelope with no postage, clearly shows two things: Firstly, how little regard the independent directors have for Norwich, it’s community and the Britvic workers, whose jobs are under threat and, secondly, the extent of the cost cutting within Britvic that it could not even afford a stamp to send the reply.

“You collectively sit on the board of a company that purports to build trust in communities, yet none of the independent directors have the courage to attend a community meeting to hear directly from those affected by the proposals you have collectively endorsed.”

He said the point of the original letter was to ensure the directors knew of the impact the proposals would have on the workers.

MORE: Leaked document shows Britvic already offering redundancies

“It is difficult to come to any other conclusion than the board is both unable and unwilling to stand by the decision in public, and that the timing of your reply was deliberately calculated to coincide with the closure of the consultation,” he said.

He accused the directors of a “failure to show any leadership on this critical issue”, but said there was still time for the company to work with the unions to seek a compromise.

A petition to save the factories, launched by this newspaper, has received more than 11,000 signatures.

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