GMB call on Business Secretary to intervene in Britvic closure
GMB call on Business Secretary Greg Clarke to intervene in the closure of Britvic Norwich over complete failure of directors to comply with consultation rules
We firmly believe that Britvic has never intended to meaningfully consult on any alternatives to closure, says GMB London
GMB, the union of the workers at the Britvic factory in Norwich are calling on Business Secretary Greg Clarke to intervene in the proposed closure of the factory, following the failure of its directors to comply with consultation rules.
In a letter written to Mr Clarke, GMB have detailed the systemic failure of Britvic to meaningfully consult its workforce, due to a predetermined decision to close the site, and their concerns regarding the advice provided by the Insolvency Service. [See notes to editors for GMB press releases on Britivic and a copy of the letter to Greg Clarke]
Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South said:
“With trade unions at Britvic, throughout the consultation before closure I’ve been raising the alarm about how the process seemed to exist only to give the company the answers they wanted. And now the GMB union has the evidence to show that the consultation was not meaningful as Britvic had already made a decision to close the site.
“I have also pressed repeatedly for the government to take some kind of action to preserve the 800 or so local jobs associated with the Britvic plant in Norwich.
“Apart from a few photo opps and words of concern, the government and local Tory MPs have sat on their hands and just watched as Britvic have schemed to sling hundreds of Norwich people out of work.”
Shaun Graham, GMB Senior Organiser, said:
“We firmly believe that Britvic has never intended to meaningfully consult on any alternatives to closure, and the manner in which it has conducted the consultation and the ‘advice’ it has provided to the market clearly support this view.
“Britvic’s Independent Directors have twice now been invited to independently meet the workforce and members of the local community regarding the proposed closure, and asked to secure a pause on the proposed closure to enable constructive negotiations to be undertaken to identify potential compromises.
“Twice they have refused, though immediately after being petitioned two directors resigned, which the Unions believe is a sign of a divided Board.
“This hostile approach to industrial relations by Britvic and the company’s failure to engage with reasonable requests for information is, at the very least, in violation of the spirit of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.”
Contact: Shaun Graham 07885 706 556 or Clive Lewis 07776 132343 / email@example.com or GMB Press Office 07970 114 762
Notes to editors
1) Norwich MP vows to work with GMB to save Britvic jobs under threat (16 Oct 2017)
2)GMB call on Britvic directors to intervene in closure of Robinsons factory in Norwich (3 Nov 2017)
3) GMB disappointed by Britvic directors disregard of Norwich factory closure (5 Dec 2017)
4) Letter to Business Secretary Greg Clarke (20 Dec 2017)
Britvic Failure to Consult
Dear Secretary of State,
GMB and Unite the Union (the “Unions”) are writing in relation to the proposed closure of the Britvic site at Norwich.
We understand that the local MP Clive Lewis, who also shares our concerns, has met with you directly on a number of occasions and discussed the need for Britvic to meaningfully consult their workforce.
This correspondence details the systemic failure of Britvic to meaningfully consult its workforce because it had made a predetermined decision, and our concerns regarding the advice provided by the Insolvency Service.
We also question why the Government has not sought to intervene in support of the Norwich community and workforce when faced with the loss of over 800 direct and indirect jobs from the local economy.
There is now clear evidence that the consultation on the proposed closure was not meaningful as Britvic had already made a decision to close the site.
At the recent 2017 Preliminary Report presentation, Britvic gave a detailed update on its Business Capability Program (BCP) and claimed that it was still consulting on the proposed Norwich closure.
However, during the presentation Britvic outlined that it had already implemented a number of capital investment measures that were either delivering or soon to deliver the efficiencies consistent with those arising from the proposed transfer of Robinson’s production from Norwich.
They discussed in detail the capability of the new lines as twice as fast as the old ones that they had replaced, and highlighted future efficiencies arising from capital investment in previously commissioned production equipment.
Britvic also stated that they were entering the “final phase” of groundworks for the remainder of the BCP.
In its presentation summary Britvic said they were “nearing completion of the BCP” and again described the benefits of the program, which included the efficiencies and savings associated with the proposal to close Norwich and transfer production of Robinsons to other sites.
Britvic claimed that – subject to consultation – they were “on track to meet their previously stated guidance” regarding the efficiency and cost saving benefits of the BCP.
These updates clearly indicate that a decision had already been made to close the site, and that stating that these measures were still ‘subject to consultation’ disingenuous at best.
If the consultation was meaningful, then surely Britvic should have been advising the market of the potential impact on their “previously stated guidance” of reversing significant investment decisions totalling over £50 million? Or at least identifying it as a potential risk in its annual report.
Britvic has claimed that it was committed to an open, transparent consultation process, yet its actions contradict this.
Despite initial and repeated requests from the Employee Consultation Group for the detailed financial evidence that supported the business case, it took Britvic more than 4 weeks (over half of the consultation process), to respond to this request, and only after the separate intervention of the Unions.
Britvic has also withheld a key report prepared by a Senior Director, Clive Hopper, that it describes as being a comprehensive analysis and “evaluation of our manufacturing and distribution requirements” that has been the catalyst for the decision.
If Britvic was committed to transparency then this information, which was readily available given it was the subject of a Board submission, it would have been supplied immediately.
Britvic has also acted on advice from the Insolvency Service to actively exclude the relevant Full Time Union Officials.
Britvic did not formally notify the recognised Unions, and instead of the customary practice of the Unions liaising to identify the appropriate level of representation, Britvic unilaterally determined who were the ‘appropriate Trade Union Representatives’ and despite repeated requests from members of the Consultation Group to be represented by their Full Time Officials.
This advice to effectively side-line Full Time Officials is becoming increasingly common amongst private sector companies and is a source of concern that the Insolvency Service is undermining existing best practice established by ACAS.
To date GMB has not received any formal notice from Britvic that the consultation has ended.
This hostile approach to industrial relations by Britvic and the company’s failure to engage with reasonable requests for information is, at the very least, in violation of the spirit of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
Failure to Engage
Britvic’s Independent Directors have twice now been invited to independently meet the workforce and members of the local community regarding the proposed closure, and asked to secure a pause on the proposed closure to enable constructive negotiations to be undertaken to identify potential compromises.
Twice they have refused, though immediately after being petitioned two directors resigned, which the Unions believe is a sign of a divided Board.
It is concerning that Independent Directors, and Companies like Britivic, can make such significant decisions without any regard to the workers, the wider community and the local economy.
The Unions firmly believe that Britvic has clearly never intended to meaningfully consult on any alternatives to closure, and the manner in which it has conducted the consultation and the ‘advice’ it has provided to the market clearly support this view.
The Unions are calling on you as the Secretary of State to intervene on the grounds that Britvic has failed to meaningfully consult, on the basis that it has made a pre-determined decision and to rectify the pejorative advice supplied by a Government agency, the Insolvency Service.
The Unions do not believe that standing idly by while over 800 direct and indirectly employed regional workers lose their jobs is appropriate for any Government, and we note the recent decisions by the Scottish Government to intervene in the Burnt Island Fabrication dispute to prevent a similar scenario.
There is still 12 months before any potential closure and we believe that this represents ample time to address the concerns outlined in our letter.
We look forward to your positive response.
GMB National Officer
CC – Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South