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Union accuses Unilever over Colman's job losses

PUBLISHED: 19:21 08 May 2018 | UPDATED: 19:54 08 May 2018

Colman's Mustard will retain only a handful of staff in Norwich

Colman's Mustard will retain only a handful of staff in Norwich

PA Archive/PA Images

Unilever has been accused of playing "fast and loose" with the process that will see all but a handful of jobs at Colman's Mustard leave Norwich.

The sign at the historic factory making Colman's mustard in NorwichThe sign at the historic factory making Colman's mustard in Norwich

In October 2017 the group announced a review of its operation in the city after site neighbour Britvic revealed plans to leave in 2019.

In January Unilever confirmed the Bracondale site would close with all 113 jobs affected. Production of wet mustard will now shift to Burton-on-Trent with other roles going to Germany. A new smaller facility will remain in the Norwich area to mill and pack dry mustard powder.

But now the GMB union has raised fears with business secretary Greg Clark over how the consultation period was conducted. In a letter to Mr Clark, the GMB’s national officer for manufacturing Eamon O’Hearn outlines concerns about newly released documents from government meetings.

The union’s claims include that there were discrepancies between what the Department of Business had been advised and what was and was not shared by Unilever with staff. It is also claimed that Unilever withheld information from the initial review process, despite advising the government to the contrary. The firm deny the allegations.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis accused the government of sitting on its hands as the job losses became clear.

“The GMB raised the alarm with the business secretary about Britvic’s consultation process almost six months ago. And now it seems that Unilever has played fast and loose with their own consultation too,” he said.

A Unilever spokesman said: “We absolutely refute that there are any discrepancies between what we have discussed in our employee Consultation Group and what we have said to other stakeholders. We have always been clear that we would consider a range of options during the review of our factory following Britvic’s decision to leave our shared site.

“These options were discussed and evaluated with significant input from our Consultation Group over a three month period, and we then went into a formal consultation process following the announcement of our own proposals where we discussed them in detail.”

The firm added that the union were involved “throughout”.

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