Tetra Pak ends 30 year Wrexham odyssey to political 'disappointment'

By Ben BOUCKLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tetra Pak ends 30 year Wrexham odyssey to political 'disappointment'
Tetra Pak has confirmed to BeverageDaily that it will close its current UK and Ireland commercial and distribution hub in Wales but plans to open a new site in the locale, with Chester the ‘preferred’ location.

But Welsh National Assembly member for Clwyd South, Ken Skates, told BBC News on Friday that he was “disappointed”​ in Tetra Pak, citing strong support for the company from a skilled workforce and local community in Wrexham, North Wales over the previous three decades.

Presented with Skates’ comments, Tetra Pak spokeswoman Samantha Edgar told BeverageDaily.com that the company was consulting with Wrexham staff – 82 in total, 17 of whom work in distribution – but if Chester were chosen as a location, its closeness (around 13.3 miles or 21.4km) meant that relocating would not be too difficult for staff.

Striving for efficiency in 'tough market'

Edgar also confirmed that Tetra Pak planned to outsource its distribution operations currently based in Wrexham (which also fulfills the firm’s office-based function in the UK and Ireland) but declined to comment on potential impact for local jobs pending the outcome of an employee consultation, and said the company had not yet finalized its choice of third-party provider.

Asked how Tetra Pak’s business was doing in the UK – where its performance has lagged behind other Western European countries, partly due to the preference for packaging pasteurized milk into HDPE – Edgar said the firm was “striving to be as efficient as possible in a tough market”.

Skates was unavailable for comment this morning, but we were able to ask a spokesman from his office about the possible impact on local jobs – 82 staff are currently employed at Wrexham, 17 of whom work in distribution.

“We don’t quite know what’s going to happen yet. I spoke to Tetra Pak last week and they said that the employees would be offered work at the new plant,” ​he told BeverageDaily.com.

He added: “That’s part of the consultation they’ll be having with staff. Because I presume there will be some people who are not able to travel to any new site, then you start looking at redundancies.”

Wrexham writing on wall...

Did Skates’ see the news of Wrexham’s final demise as in some respects inevitable, given that Tetra Pak moved manufacturing (roll-fed carton production) away from the site in 2011 at the cost of 150 jobs?

(Thereafter, Edgar said, a lot of the manufacturing volume for UK and Ireland was redistributed across Europe. "As over 50% of our volume was for export, the local markets that were then able to produce for themselves took this over," she said.)

“You’ve only got to look at previous headlines. There’s been a succession of announcements over the past few years. In 2011 they ended manufacturing at the site, leaving office-based functions,” ​the spokesman said.

“So it has been a gradual process of just taking things away. And the rationale that they set out in their briefing document on Friday is that the site’s just too big now, and is not suited to their needs.

Glossing Skate’s comments to the BBC regarding his disappointment in Tetra Pak, the spokesman added: “It would have been nice if they’d maybe said something beforehand, so we could have looked at other options in Wrexham itself.”

Manufacturing has been hit hard in Wales over the past 30 years. But there is still a sizable advanced manufacturing base in the country’s Northeast, with Airbus one of the principal employers.

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