GMB question Coca-Cola's decision to close factory in Milton Keynes

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GMB question decision by Coca-Cola to close factory in Milton Keynes following confirmation announcement

Clearly, however much lip-service is paid to caring about the workforce, the bottom line is the one thing which large, International companies always put as priority number one, says GMB London

GMB, the union for staff at the Coca-Cola factory in Milton Keynes, have questioned why the company have decided to close the site, as well as the warehouse in Northampton, whose staff are represented by Unite, following an announcement confirming the decision yesterday (27 March). [See notes to editors for previous GMB press release]

The sites in Northampton and Milton Keynes are expected to begin closing in early 2019, and to finally close in late 2019. This will affect all 288 workers employed, some of whom may agree to move to different locations and the others will be made redundant.

GMB were given a 45-day consultation period to discuss with the company the reasons for closing the undisputed number one site in Europe in terms of ‘cost-per-case’, but were, however, unable to alter the company's decision.

Coca-Cola have guaranteed during consultations that no jobs will be forcibly lost until 2019.

Richard Owen, GMB Regional Officer said:

"I am very unhappy that we have not been able to persuade Coca-Cola to change course, but I cannot say that I am surprised.

“I am equally unhappy that the 45-day consultation period was treated as the absolute maximum. As the plants are not going to be closing until next year, we feel it would not have been too much to ask to keep discussions open for another few weeks. Coca-Cola, however, have closed the consultation with us precisely on the 45th day.

“We have spent the last 45 days trying to get Coca-Cola to tell us the exact profit figures of the output from Milton Keynes and Northampton, and what that is worth to Coca-Cola Europe, but the company continually refused to tell us, claiming that they do not have access to those gross profit figures.

“If the sites were making a loss, we could understand this decision to close them, but by our calculations, the Milton Keynes factory is probably generating £100 million or more a year for Coca-Cola. Staff in Milton Keynes were even congratulated last year after being named the most efficient factory in terms of ‘cost-per-case’ in Europe. Weeks later the same staff were told the factory would be closing.

“Coca-Cola believe that they can save £12 million a year by closing the two sites. For a company that is making £1.7 billion a year in profit, £12 million is barely a scratch. For the sake of a small amount in the grand scheme of The Coca-Cola Company, 300 people are going to be thrown out of work.

“We think that that is a pretty scant reward for the 40 years of dedicated labour that has been put into these sites, and do not think that it is justified.

“We are also suspicious that in 3 to 4 years-time Coca-Cola will realise that the Midlands is, after all, the right place for manufacturing and logistics, and reverse this decision, and build another factory nearby.  By then, however, it will be too late for the 300 people that have already lost their jobs.

“It is therefore a source of great disappointment and anger that when Coca-Cola were given the chance, a few years back, they failed to take up the opportunity to buy land immediately next door to the factory in Milton Keynes on which they could have built a dedicated warehouse (The travelling distance between the two plants is a key plank of their business case). This would have instantly increased the productivity and efficiency of their manufacturing network, yet for whatever reason they didn’t take up that option, and now that space has been turned into a car salesroom.

“We still don’t think it is too late for this decision to be reversed, although Coca-Cola do seem to be intent on pushing ahead with it. Clearly, however much lip-service is paid to caring about the workforce, the bottom line is the one thing which large, International companies always put as priority number one.

“£1.7 billion is more cash than most ordinary working folk can even dream about, but for Coca-Cola, it's clearly not quite enough.

“It is another sad day for manufacturing in our region, which continues to decline, and a slap in the face for two towns which have helped generate a fortune for this company over the last 40 years."


Contact: Richard Owen 07974 179 285 or GMB London Press Office 07970 114

Notes to Editors

Previous GMB Press Releases

GMB shocked by closure announcement of Coca-Cola factory in Milton Keynes (31 January 2018)