A delegation of workers from the threatened Shepton Mallet cider mill is due to meet Somerset’s MPs on Tuesday (23 February) to explore ways of creating new employment opportunities in the county.
The delegation of shop stewards will meet the MPs under the auspices of the all-party parliamentary group on cider at the House of Commons to discuss the cider mill closing at the end of the summer with the loss of 120 jobs, ending a tradition stretching back to 1770.
More generally, the delegation would like to float other ideas that could help employment opportunities regionally such as small industrial estates adjacent to market towns, and increasing broadband access to assist home working and telecommuting;
The union understands that three non-cider making manufacturing firms have approached the cider mill’s owner’s C&C Group about the site, but no further details have been made available as it is said they are ‘commercially sensitive’.
Unite has argued that there was no need for the site to close with production of well-known brands, including Blackthorn and Olde English, moving to the Magners plant in Clonmel in the Irish Republic. Only fruit will continue to be pulped at Shepton Mallet, but then shipped to Ireland.
Unite regional coordinating officer Steve Preddy said: “The Shepton Mallet workers are being sacrificed because of historic commercial failings that, in our view, have led to the overcapacity issues across C&C.
“We will want to discuss with the MPs the reasons behind the announcement that the cider mill will close and how multi-national companies treat hard-working employees in such a casual off-hand fashion.
“More generally, Unite recognises that there is a need for an economic blueprint to create more employment in the West Country – the region can’t just survive on tourism and a poorly-paid service sector. We would like to discuss if there is common ground with the MPs on this issue.”
Unite chief shop steward at the cider mill Stephen Faulkner, who will be at the meeting with MPs, said: “We welcome this opportunity to put the case to the MPs on behalf of the dedicated, hard-working employees, some of whom who have put in over 30 years’ service at the mill.
“There is something not right about Somerset apples being used to make traditional Somerset ciders in Ireland when we have the skills, tradition and enthusiasm to continue to make high-quality cider in Shepton Mallet.
“The closure will have a very detrimental impact on the town and great hardship and anguish for our members looking for new jobs in the county. It is time for a rethink by the management of C&C and we hope that the MPs will support us in this.”
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.