Angry union brands Heinz U-turn over £140m Wigan plan a "disgraceful betrayal"
Union leaders have called Heinz’s £140m decision to abandon a sauce production plan for its Wigan factory a “slap in the face” for its workers.
Last week food giant Kraft Heinz announced that it was dropping plans to bring the manufacture of iconic brands such as its ketchup to the Kitt Green plant.
It blamed workers who had gone against the recommendations of their union and voted against the changes to terms and conditions which the firm said the sauce deal would need.
Even though the majority of staff had defied Unite’s advice, the union has now launched a furious broadside against the employer.
It said it was seeking “cast-iron reassurances” from executives about the future of its Kitt Green plant.
And there was further anger that the Spanish and Polish workers are to receive the investment originally earmarked for the UK without having to change their terms and conditions.
Unite national officer for the food and drink sector Joe Clarke said: “This is a disgraceful betrayal of this loyal workforce. They were told to make sacrifices to receive this investment yet it has gone to Poland and Spain without any such demands being made.
“Our members are reeling from this news so we are seeking immediate, cast-iron safeguards that the UK plant and jobs are secure.
“We will not allow the UK workforce to be treated like this and Unite will fully support our members in any next steps that they wish to take.”
The plant, one of biggest food processing sites in Europe, makes the iconic Heinz Baked Beanz and employs more than 1,000 workers.
Mr Clarke added: “The millions of UK consumers, who purchase Heinz products, will be disturbed to learn that the workers who make their favourite products are being treated so badly by Kraft Heinz.
“We will now instigate discussions with senior management at the company as to the future plans and investment for the Kitt Green site. The job security of the workforce is our priority.”
Heinz’s statement read: “As a direct result of the ballot last year which rejected the package of measures and progress towards modernised working practices that was needed to underpin this investment at Kitt Green, the company has re-evaluated the location to build additional production capacity for sauces.
“A decision has been taken for the current sauces investment to be made in our Alfaro and Pudliszki factories based in Spain and Poland respectively.
“Whilst we can congratulate our colleagues in Alfaro and Pudliszki for this significant investment, it is disappointing that on this occasion the Kitt Green site was unsuccessful in securing this opportunity.
“With this decision now made, we will continue with our focus and dedication in driving the improvements needed for us to continue our journey at Kitt Green to be exceptional in everything we do.
“With respect to our current and future investment plans at Kitt Green, we are working to ensure that the right level of investments continue to be made at Kitt Green which remains one of the most important facilities within our network.
“As an ongoing process, the Company will continue to evaluate the future growth across our various product categories and capacity gaps. Therefore, it remains important that Kitt Green is a possible option in the future when the need arises.”