Cider restructure threatens jobs as Heineken invests £58M

Strongbow cider is one of the main products made at Heineken's Hereford plant

Altogether 97 jobs could be affected at Heineken UK's Universal Beverages Ledbury (UBL) plant as it shifts cider production to Hereford and invests £58M there, the company has confirmed.

“We can confirm that there are 97 people affected at UBL Ledbury by our proposed changes to the site and future transfer of work to Hereford,” said a Heineken spokesman. “We have entered into a formal consultation process with those colleagues and we have now shared our preliminary views on the impact of job numbers at both sites.”

After the move, which Heineken expects to complete by the end of 2015, just 16 staff would be left at Ledbury, he said.

However, the cash boost to the Hereford HP Bulmer factory would secure hundreds of jobs there and create at least 50 job opportunities, all of which would be available to Ledbury workers. “Initial indications suggest that there is significant interest in these new jobs from those colleagues affected,“ the spokesman added.

‘Serious concern’

In a statement issued this morning (April 3), Unite regional officer Chris Purvis described the plight of Ledbury employees as “a matter of serious concern”.

“We have met with management already and are due to meet the workforce later today,” said Purvis.

“Our twin aims are to investigate how many jobs can be transferred from Ledbury to the new plant at Hereford with the appropriate training and to avoid any compulsory redundancies,” said Purvis. “Unite wishes to work in a constructive fashion with management to achieve those two goals.”

The £58M package would be used to boost capacity at Hereford and modernise facilities such as packing, Heineken confirmed in a statement. “The investment demonstrates our commitment to securing Herefordshire for the long term as the global home of cider,” it added, claiming it would enable it to continue to create innovative cider products.

In turn, it aims to dedicate the Ledbury facility, which it took on in 2009 from Scottish & Newcastle, to fruit milling. Until the project was finished at the end of next year, it assured customers it would be “business as usual”.

‘Consultation process’

“A full consultation process has begun at Ledbury on these proposals,” the company stated. We will continue to support those colleagues affected and provide further information as we proceed through the process.”

There would be no supply changes for local apple farmers, who would continue to deliver their fruit to Ledbury as was the case under existing arrangements, said Heineken.

The Ledbury factory produces drinks for Heineken and other major UK producers and claims to be able to press up to 15,000t of fruit and vegetables a week. It can make and store concentrates, purees and smoothies.

Having been operational as a cider plant since 1887, the Hereford site claims to make the majority of the UK’s cider and the bulk of its cider exports. Bulmers and Strongbow are its major products. Heineken acquired the site when it bought out Scottish & Newcastle for £7.8bn in 2008.

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