Unilever Swansea, Bridgend, Ewloe, Slough sites to shut

Consumer goods giant Unilever has confirmed it is to close four plants, cutting 500 jobs with another 100 at risk.

Factories at Swansea and Bridgend will close by the end of 2013 with the loss of 250 jobs, with 250 going in Slough.

Ewloe in Flintshire will close by the end of 2014 with 400 jobs moving to Port Sunlight, Wirral, and the possible loss of the remaining 100 jobs.

About 200 new jobs are being created at Port Sunlight and Flintshire.

The total number of losses could be 600 if the remaining 100 jobs are lost at the company's St David's Park offices at Ewloe, although this has yet to be decided.

The jobs lost in Slough follows the decision to close the Sara Lee personal care factory.

Affected staff were told of the news by the company on Thursday, with consultations due to start with workers on Monday.

The news confirms proposals that the company was planning to shut the sites.

It has a total UK workforce of about 7,200 and makes products and brands ranging from Ben and Jerry's ice cream, Marmite, PG Tips and Pot Noodles to Dove soap, Vaseline, Persil and Domestos.

The Swansea factory makes personal care products, while in Bridgend the company has a distribution site.

The firm has previously said some of the jobs in Ewloe could be outsourced to Unilever's IT centre in Bangalore, India.

Unilever said changes to its UK business were needed to strengthen its platform for long term growth.

The proposals included making a £40m investment in a new manufacturing and IT hub at the company's base at Port Sunlight.

The investment will create around 150 new jobs at a new manufacturing facility for personal care products.

The 50 new jobs at Flintshire come as Unilever announced it has signed a contract with a separate distributor based at Deeside industrial estate.

Welsh Secretary David Jones said the news "will cause a great deal of concern to the workers, families and communities affected".

"I am receiving regular updates from both the company and relevant agencies, and am committed to working with the Welsh government to offer all the support we can," he said.

He added that the UK government would make sure the Department of Work and Pensions would be ready when necessary to try and find other work for the Unilever staff who lose their jobs.

'Deeply disappointed'

Swansea East AM Mike Hedges said he was "deeply disappointed," adding: "Although I've been told that Unilever plans to offer jobs to staff facing redundancy in Swansea at their new base in Merseyside, I sincerely doubt that this will be of any consolation or benefit to the 225 local people that will now lose their job as a result."

Gareth Jones, regional co-ordinating officer for Unite union added: "The reaction is one of feeling let down by Unilever and disappointment in the announcement today.

"Unilever are profitable, not just in the UK but globally as well. We believe it's an affordable side to keep open.

"I think it proves Unilever are more concerned with their shareholders interests rather than the interests of their employees."

Dave Heggarty, Flintshire council's head of regeneration said: "It's very disappointing news that we're losing a major employer like Unilever that employs a large number of people here.

"We were aware that the company was looking at other options but it is disappointing that they've made the decision to close down the Flintshire operation."

Unilever UK and Ireland chair Amanda Sourry said: "We understand that many of our employees will be anxious at this time.

"That's why we are today pledging a good package of support for employees who are adversely affected."

Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith said: "The loss of 350 jobs in Wales would be a serious blow at any point in the economic cycle but in the middle of a double-dip recession, it will be felt particularly acutely".

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