Multinational Swiss-based food and drink giant Nestlé is to cut almost 600 jobs and close a confectionery factory in Newcastle.
It has announced plans to close its site in Fawdon by the end of 2023 and focus production on factories in York and Halifax, a move that will put 573 jobs at risk.
According to the GMB and Unite unions 475 jobs would be lost at Fawdon, a northern suburb of Newcastle, where Fruit Pastilles and Rolos are made, and 98 at the York factory, which produces KitKats.
“We do not underestimate the impact that the closure of Fawdon factory would have on the local area and, as part of the consultation, we want to work with the local community to find ways that we can support the area and our employees if these proposals were to go ahead,” Nestlé said.
Ross Murdoch, GMB national officer, 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.
“Nestlé is the largest food producer in the world, with astronomical profits. It can afford to treat workers right. It’s corporate greed at its worst – GMB and Unite will fight for every job.”
Joe Clarke, Unite’s national officer for the food and drink industry, described the announcement as a cruel blow and said Unite would be asking for an urgent meeting with the management to establish the business rationale for these decisions from a multi-national company “which is highly profitable”.
He added: “The fact these announcements have come during a global pandemic is particularly bitter and heartless.”
Labour’s Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell echoed the unions’ position: “It is particularly difficult to accept that the world’s largest food company needs to make hundreds of Newcastle workers redundant at a time when it has just achieved its strongest quarterly growth in a decade,” she said.
A Nestlé spokesperson said the company would invest £20m into the York facility to “increase production of KitKat in the city where the brand was first created in 1935” and £9.2m at Halifax to “take on the largest portion of Fawdon’s current production”.
The company added: “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.”