Ruffley Holds Meetings with Union and Management on Needham Market Unilever Bestfoods Closure

Wednesday, 12 January, 2005

David Ruffley will be visiting Unilever Bestfoods UK at Needham Market on Friday, 14th January at 11.15 a.m. to hold meetings with Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) officials and management following the announcement by the company that the Needham Market site will close in the second half of 2006. The T&G are campaigning to keep the site open.

David will meet Brian Smith, Regional Industrial Organiser, and Dave Rowland, T&G Shop Steward. He will then have a separate meeting with Alistair Joyce, Unilever Factory Manager.

Production of the Elmlea brand will be transferred from Needham Market to the Unilever site in Purfleet. The company predicts this will lead to savings of £2-3 million a year and give a competitive edge to Elmlea which could not be achieved at Needham Market even with additional capital investment. The closure of the Needham Market site will lead to the loss of all 66 jobs. Unilever do not anticipate any compulsory redundancies occurring before December 2005 and they will offer some employees the option of relocating to the Purfleet site.

The T&G dispute the need to close the Needham Market site which continues to increase production despite no major investment since 1994 and a reduction of about 20% in the maintenance budget over this period. This has been achieved by a committed and flexible workforce. In 2004 the site made a profit of between £5.6 and £6 million.

David said: 'I share the T&G's concern about the proposed closure of the Needham Market site. There has been a food manufacturer on the Needham Market site for 150 years and local families can nearly all trace ties to this site- it is part of the community and its loss will inevitably cause hardship.

I will be listening very carefully to the arguments put forward by the T&G in support of their quest to stop Unilever closing the Needham Market site. Following my meeting with Brian Smith and Dave Rowland I will be discussing the proposed closure with Alistair Joyce, the Factory Manager. If the company does proceed with the closure I will do all I can to ensure that the workforce gets the best deal possible and every assistance with obtaining alternative employment.'