‘Hard hit’ for Warrington as Unilever shuts another century-old factory

Unilever’s decision to close its 136-year-old washing powder factory in Warrington is a ‘hard hit’ for the town, Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Wednesday 11 March). 

Consumer goods giant Unilever said yesterday that the factory, which produces the Surf and Persil brands and employs 123 people, is in the process of closing, with all staff expected to be gone from the site by the end of the year.

Unite, which represents nearly 50 workers at the Warrington site, is demanding that Unilever provides staff with generous redundancy packages and support following the announcement.

The closure of the historic factory comes after Unilever announced 200 jobs losses at its nearby Port Sunlight facilities and ended 160 years of mustard manufacturing at Norwich’s Colman’s site in 2019.

The company is also currently undertaking a review of its global tea division, which includes the PG Tips brand in the UK, despite it generating £2.5 billion in sales last year.

Unilever chief executive Alan Jope has said that a number of the company’s brands may be at risk as it pursues greater growth.

In January, Unite warned Unilever, which made net global profits of £5 billion in 2019, not to ‘sacrifice profitable and sustainable businesses for the sake of short term profits’.

Unite regional officer Andrew Johnson said: “The announcement of the closure of Unilever’s washing powder factory is a hard hit for Warrington and indeed another worrying instance of the firm’s direction of travel.

“There have been a number of restructuring exercises by Unilever in the north west of late that have resulted in redundancies, specifically at the Port Sunlight sites. It would appear that the company is intent on closing down this site in order to maintain or increase short term profits.

“The closure of the factory is a sad day for Warrington, bringing to an end nearly a century and a half of manufacturing by Unilever in the town. With the consultation process commencing next week, Unite will be demanding Unilever provides staff at the Warrington site with generous redundancy packages and support over the coming months, including redeployment where possible.”

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