UK trade union Unite is urging Coca-Cola Enterprises to rethink a compulsory redundancy program at Europe's largest soft drinks production site in Wakefield.
Unite said the company should rethink what the trade union claims is a rigid stance on seeking 42 job losses at a new automated warehouse in Kenmore Road, where the company has been seeking 30 volunteers for redundancy and 12 compulsory.
But the union says that more than 10 workers (above the 30 targeted) have come forward for voluntary redundancy with similar skills, so there is no need for the compulsory redundancies.
Thus, Unite will arrange a demonstration at the Cola Cola site this Thursday, December 19.
Unite regional officer Sarah Mitchell said: “Throughout the consultation process, Unite has urged CCE to ‘do the right thing’ and allow those who volunteer for redundancy to go, thus ensuring there is no need for compulsory redundancies.
“Coca-Cola has received sufficient volunteers to allow them to retain the right number of staff with the right skills, but it is still using this restructuring process as an opportunity to make compulsory redundancies, and we believe this is just plain wrong."
“Unite recognizes the important role that CCE plays in the local Wakefield economy - but what it is proposing is too rigid and needs an urgent rethink.”
CCE 'disappointed' at Unite action
But CCE hit back at Unite, expressing disappointment at the union's action. "We are making a number of changes at our Wakefield facility but we believe that we have worked constructively with our employee representative bodies to minimize compulsory redundancies as far as possible," the firm said.
Coke's anchor bottler in Western Europe also disputes Unites figures, stating that there have been 47 redundancies on the site: 38 voluntary and nine compulsory.
"The changes, which include higher levels of automation and new ways of working at the site, will ensure our Wakefield facility continues to be an efficient and highly flexible site within our manufacturing network in Great Britain.
"We do not make such changes lightly, and since announcing our proposals in October we have consulted fully - both collectively with employee representatives and individually with affected employees at the site."
'We are committed to Wakefield' - CCE
CCE said it had identified 19 potential new job openings for affected staff at Wakefield, and that 38 of the 47 people now leaving the business had applied for voluntary redundancy.
"We are offering support to assist employees through this process and have in place a comprehensive outplacement program," the company said.
"We remain absolutely committed to manufacturing at Wakefield, the changes will help us to create a strong platform on which to build our future business in the area as well as meet the needs of a rapidly changing market," it added.
CCE's Wakefield plant was established in 1989 and employs 466 employees, and the company claims it s the largest soft drinks plant by volume in Europe.