Unilever threat to cut brands ‘concerning’, says Unite

Rhys McCarthy
X The Business Desk

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Doubts have been raised over the “short term” strategy of household goods and food conglomerate Unilever.

The group announced strategic reviews as part of its financial results yesterday (January 30) which could see the closure of a washing powder plant in Warrington and the sale of its teas operation in Trafford Park, Greater Manchester, with the potential to affect hundreds of jobs.

Unite the Union, which represents 150 members at the PG Tips factory and around 40 members at the Warrington site, said today that serious questions need to be asked about Unilever’s future business strategy and its implications for jobs.

The union urged Unilever, which made net global profits of more than £5bn in 2019, not to “sacrifice profitable and sustainable businesses for the sake of short term returns”.

Unilever’s global tea division accounted for £2.5bn in sales last year and includes the PG Tips brand in the UK. But the group said tea consumption has been hit by a switch to coffee drinking by a new generation of consumers.

The announcement of strategic reviews follows comments by Unilever chief executive Alan Jope that a number of Unilever brands may be at risk as it pursues greater growth.

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said: “Unilever’s direction of travel is concerning, particularly in light of its recent announcements and chief executive Alan Jope’s comments casting doubt on the future of a number of the firm’s brands.

“It makes no sense to throw away businesses that still make considerable profits and have a long term future, simply because they are not growing fast enough.

“Unilever staff across the country will, of course, be concerned that their jobs could be needlessly put at risk in an effort to hastily increase dividends.

“Unite will not sit back and allow Unilever to throw good jobs away just to satisfy the demands of the market.

“It is in nobody’s interests except the speculators for Unilever to sacrifice profitable and sustainable businesses for the sake of short term returns.”

Earlier this month Unilever announced that 100 jobs are set to go at its Port Sunlight factory and research facility in Wirral, where it employs around 1,800 staff making brands such as Dove, Lynx, Comfort and Domestos.

Around 750 scientiests work at the research centre.

The cuts are expected to affect IT, research development and factory support workers.

Unilever said it had already shed 125 employees in 2019 and that the next two years would see a further 100 employees made redundant.