Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has claimed the planned closures of two sites in 2019 are not down to “any single external factor”.

This is despite claims from the GMB union that the company had said the pressure of the sugar tax and imminent bottle deposit scheme were factors “forcing their hand” ​in the decision.

Trade unions said they were shocked about the company’s plans, revealed on January 31, to close its manufacturing site in Milton Keynes and distribution centre in Northampton.

If the proposals were implemented, it would affect 288 jobs, with the sites closing in 2019.

Saddened

GMB said it was saddened by the decision to close the factory in Milton Keynes in 2019. It said these were “high-quality jobs”, ​which would be impossible to replace in the local area.

“Coca-Cola have blamed pressures of the sugar tax and imminent arrival of the deposit schemes for bottles for forcing their hand in this decision,”​ said Richard Owen, GMB regional officer.

However, a spokesman for CCEP said: While we currently operate in a challenging external environment, these proposals are not made lightly or in response to any single external factor.

“We have successfully operated in a tough and dynamic market for many years. These proposals are about improving the flexibility, efficiency and productivity of our manufacturing and distribution operations in GB, while reducing complexity.”

No redundancies until 2019

Owen said that CCEP said no one would be made redundant until 2019.

“We hope to work closely with the company to make sure the employees, some of whom have worked there for over 25 years, are adequately rewarded for their service,” ​said Owen.

“We have also been told that hundreds of jobs will be created at other factories in Sidcup, Edmonton, Wakefield and East Kilbride.”

However, GMB said the fact that the Milton Keynes site had no associated warehouse, with 75% of production being stored in Northampton, “was surely a factor in this decision”.

‘Body blow’

Unite said the closure of the Northampton distribution site was a “body blow”​ for the local economy amid a challenging time for the UK economy generally.

Unite regional officer Sally Mortimer said: “We don’t accept the company’s case that this site is not ‘customer friendly’, as it is in the centre of England with excellent motorway connections and transport links.

“During the consultation period, we will strongly be making that case for the site to stay open and our red line is that there should be no compulsory redundancies.”