ANGRY union representatives and workers at tea company Twinings are set to stage a protest in London in an attempt to halt the company's plans to close its factory in North Shields and axe almost 400 jobs in the UK.
More than 50 workers are due to converge outside a meeting of the firm’s shareholders on Friday in an attempt to convince it to reconsider the decision to axe 263 workers in North Shields and reduce its staff in Andover, Hampshire, from 278 to 149.
Twinings, which is owned by London-based AB Foods, announced last month that it was looking to slash its UK workforce in favour of transferring work to China and Poland.
The firm, which has manufactured tea for more than 30 years, wants to move production to China in order to take advantage of the growing popularity of tea in Asian markets and sees Poland as a more central location for its European expansion.
Although representatives of shop workers union Usdaw have conceded that moving some of the company’s production to China makes financial sense, it said that it strongly opposed the company’s move to Poland and the closure of the North Shields site. Usdaw union representative Jayne Shotton is meeting with regional organiser Mike Parsonage and North Tyneside MP Stephen Byers on Thursday to speak to Twinings’ international supply director Marcus Cotter-Stone in advance of the planned protest outside Congress House in London.
An early day motion has also been tabled in the Commons by Labour MP John McDonnell expressing concern at the job losses and calling for the Government to intervene “as a matter of urgency”.
Ms Shotton said: “There is absolutely no reason to close the factory in North Shields.
“The company’s biggest market is France, so what is the sense of moving most of its European operations over to Poland? There will be around 50 workers attending the protests on Friday and we hope to lend some weight to their cause by holding a meeting with Mr Cotter-Stone on Thursday.”
Twinings said it was unable to comment on the scheduled protests as it is still involved in an ongoing consultation process.
As part of the company’s announcements last month, head of manufacturing Peter Willetts said: “We understand that this announcement will come as a shock for our employees at North Shields who could not have done more for our business.
“As two-thirds of our sales are overseas, we need to locate our manufacturing operations in cost-effective locations, closer to markets.”