The fact that the 120 workers at Shepton Mallet Cider learnt about the planned closure of the site from media reports is ‘disgraceful, discourteous and Dickensian’, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 12 January).
Despite widespread media reports this morning that the business, which has been operating since 1770, was to close, Unite reps at the Kilver Street plant were not being briefed until this afternoon.
The Somerset operation makes the well-known cider brands of Blackthorn and Olde English.
The owners C&C want to move production of cider to its Magners plant in Clonmel in the Irish Republic. Fruit will continue to be pulped at Shepton Mallet, but then shipped to Ireland.
The plant is expected to close in the late summer with the canning, bottling and kegging production lines moving to Ireland. It is not known how many will be left for the pulping operation that currently employs two full-time workers.
Unite regional coordinating officer Steve Preddy said: “It is disgraceful and Dickensian that this dedicated and loyal workforce should hear of the closure through the media.
“It was only this afternoon – hours later – that the shop stewards and workers were informed that the plant was closing. This is an unacceptable way to behave in the workplace in 2016.
“We know our members work for a Dickensian and inflexible employer, which puts company profit for shareholders and company directors first and foremost. The company has used the media in a cynical way to pave the way for this bad news – our members deserved much better.
“There has been more than 240 years of cider production at Shepton Mallet at a workplace that is synonymous with historic cider production in the south west - and now this is coming to an end.
“This is a grievous blow to the workforce, their families, the town and the Somerset economy.
“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the management for the reasons behind the closure and what can be done to safeguard jobs at the site, given that pulping will continue in Somerset. We will be giving our members Unite’s maximum support at this traumatic time.”
It is understood that C&C has been hit by a troubled investment in a US cider manufacturer.
Unite points to the now ironic message on the company’s website: “Here in the town of Shepton Mallet, high in the Mendips and away from the floods, an ancient borehole provided a natural source of water – perfect for the milling and blending of a most refreshing and distinctive Somerset cider. And now, as then, at Shepton Mallet Cider Mill, making cider isn’t just our passion – it’s a way of life.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.