coca cola

Unions have blasted a decision by Coca-Cola to close its Milton Keynes factory and Northampton distribution centre as a ‘slap in the face’ for workers.

The move, confirmed by the soft drinks giant yesterday, will see as many as 288 roles affected.

While some employees would move to different locations, others would be made redundant, unions representing workers at the Milton Keynes plant said.

“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,” said Richard Owen, GMB regional officer.

“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 £100m 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.”

Owen claimed that Coca-Cola believed it could save £12m a year by closing the two sites. “For a company that is making £1.7bn a year in profit, £12m is barely a scratch,” he added.

“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.”

Unite also questioned the reasoning behind the closure, which it described as ”devestating news” for workers and their families.

“Unite does not believe that Coca Cola has made a convincing business case for these closures,” said Unite regional officer Sally Mortimer.

A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola European Partners described the decision as a “difficult” one to make.

“We want to stress that this is not a reflection on the performance or professionalism of our colleagues at these sites,” she said.

“We are committed to supporting all those impacted throughout the process of closure and beyond, by offering training and development opportunities, as well as tailored outplacement support. In addition, there will be redeployment opportunities within our business with the creation of 121 new roles across our manufacturing and distribution network.”

The spokesperson added the move was the “right way forward for the business”.

“It will allow us to significantly improve productivity and create greater efficiency for our business in Britain, allowing us to continue to grow in this increasingly dynamic market. We will be transferring all production and warehousing from Milton Keynes and Northampton to other GB sites and will continue to invest in our business to support long-term growth.”