Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has warned of a double blow to traditional UK manufacturing as workers prepare to leave Imperial Tobacco’s iconic Horizon factory in Nottingham for the last time, today (Friday 27 May).
The closure marks the end of 140 years of cigarette manufacturing in the city and comes as around 500 workers at Japanese Tobacco International (JTI) in Northern Ireland exited the factory gates in Ballymena for the final time last week.
The remainder of the jobs at JTI will finish between now and May 2017 when the site is set to shut its doors for good.
The closures spell the end of centuries of tobacco manufacturing in the UK and Ireland as big tobacco looks to maximise profits by moving operations to Eastern Europe.
Unite has accused the UK government of doing too little to safeguard UK manufacturing and the well paid, highly skilled jobs that go with it.
Julia Long Unite national officer said: “Our thoughts are with the workers at these two factories and their families. The collapse of the once thriving UK tobacco industry which gave us thousands of well paid, highly skilled jobs, employing generations of families, is a bitter blow to our communities and the UK economy.
“The end of tobacco production in the UK and Ireland is another nail in the coffin for our traditional manufacturing sector, meaning a loss of vital revenue for the Exchequer and more well paid, highly skilled jobs - something that a weak economy such as ours can ill afford to lose.
“Sadly it seems big tobacco is more interested in selling out its workers than investing in a skilled, well paid UK workforce.
“Social dumping is increasingly being used by greedy corporations, as bosses look to increase profits while sacking people and shipping jobs to low wage countries.
“The UK government needs to do more to invest in UK manufacturing and put in place better and increased protections for our workers.”
Unite’s joint union- management job saving proposal to safeguard a strong and viable future for JTI in Northern Ireland was roundly rejected by the company last year.
Commenting at the time, Unite regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said: “JTI has rejected our counter-proposal as it has a strategic long-term goal of shifting employment from Western to Eastern Europe. This decision is an extreme case of ‘social dumping’ where employers seek to minimise costs through chasing lower cost alternatives. The workforce at Lisnafillan is highly skilled, experienced and motivated - this is the wrong decision.”
For more information please contact, Unite campaigns officer Chantal Chegrinec on 07774146777
Note to editors:
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