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GMB union outlines how savings could be made at Britvic's Norwich factory without it having to close

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

A union has outlined how savings could be made at Britvic's under-threat Norwich factory without it having to close.

Entrance to the Norwich Britvic factory.
Picture: Nick ButcherEntrance to the Norwich Britvic factory. Picture: Nick Butcher

In a counter proposal put forward to the company, GMB’s regional organiser Ivan Mercer suggested moving to a 24/7 operation and introducing new product lines.

He said the Bracondale Site had always been profitable, and that their ideas could deliver further productivity and efficiency savings.

An internal document from Britvic revealed that its proposals to close the Norwich factory would save between £11m to £14m.

It would also result in the loss of more than 240 jobs.

GMB’s counter proposal said: “Norwich has consistently out-performed other factories for years, and continues to do so even without the investment that other sites have enjoyed.

“Imagine what we could achieve with new lines and new technology.”

The union asked Britvic to:

• Consider a different logistics model for the business.

GMB said Norwich was “well placed” to primarily service North London, East Anglia and Northern Europe.

It said a larger warehouse could be invested in Norwich, allowing Pepsi and other non-Robinson’s Britvic products to be brought in lorries. Robinsons products, which are made in Norwich, could then be transported back to other warehouses.

Mr Mercer said at present, lorries coming to the Norwich factory arrive empty.

• Invest in machinery to produce own pre-form bottles in Norwich.

GMB said the bulk of lorry space taken up bringing in pre-forms to the factory was air. They claimed if plastic “chips” were brought in instead, the number of deliveries required would be significantly reduced.

• Streamline the Norwich site.

MORE: Petition launched to save Britvic and Unilever’s factory in Norwich gains 5,000 signatures in one day

MORE: Norfolk businessman offers hope for future of Colman’s factory site

The union said moving to a 24/7 operation would make more efficient use of labour at the factory. Britvic, which said the Bracondale factory was profitable, said a review of its logistical operations was one of the reasons for its proposals.

But GMB said “no amount” of transport savings could compensate for the dedication of its Norwich workforce.

At a meeting on Thursday, Mr Mercer said Britvic had rejected the counter proposal.

He claimed the company said their ideas would only save £2.9m.

The campaign

A spokesman from Britvic said the firm was currently consulting with its workforce, and could not comment on the proposals designed to prevent the Norwich factory closing.

The spokesman said: “This is a confidential process and it would therefore be inappropriate for us to discuss these proposals externally.”

The Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News launched a campaign to keep Unilever and Britvic in Norwich after their closure was announced on October 3.

A petition to keep the factories open and save hundreds of jobs has so far gathered more than 11,000 signatures.

Robinsons, one of Britvic’s brands, has been based in Norwich for more than 90 years, while Unilever produces arguably Norwich and Norfolk’s most iconic brand, Colman’s Mustard, made in the city for more than 200 years.

To sign the petition, click here

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