Late last year, the McVitie’s maker dominated headlines with the closure of its historic biscuit factory in Tollcross, Glasgow, despite aggressive opposition by the Scottish government-led Pladis Action Group. In August 2021, pladis confirmed the facility will close in the second half of this year, resulting in the loss of 472 jobs.
The Victoria Biscuit Works has been in continuous operation for almost a century and is best known for producing McVitie's products, including household favourites such as Digestives, Hobnobs and Rich Tea.
At the time, pladis UK director David Murray said,”pladis is home to some of Britain’s best loved brands which have been part of the fabric of our society for nearly two hundred years. In order to protect them for generations to come, we must take steps to address excess capacity in the UK.”
Change in consumer demand
pladis is again citing ‘the long-term sustainability of the business’ behind the closure of its plant in Manchester, which has a 470 staff headcount.
In a statement, it said ‘growing external headwinds such as rising inflation, increasing energy costs and supply chain disruption’ are pushing up production costs at the Wellington Road North plant, ‘at a time when the business faces a change in consumer demand’.
‘The proposal could potentially result in the loss of 159 out of 470 roles,’ it added.
“We understand this news will be very difficult for those in Manchester,” said Nina Sparks, VP of supply chain for pladis UK&I.
“Our Manchester factory remains an important part of our UK business and our priority now is to provide our colleagues with clear guidance and the right support as we start the proposed consultation process.
“Like many other businesses, we are grappling with new and growing external pressures. We must, therefore, review and consider appropriate steps to safeguard the future of our whole business.”
Like its previous moves, its plan has been slammed by trade unions.
Dave Gill, Usdaw’s national officer, said the union will ‘interrogate’ pladis’ business case on the Manchester plan.
“This is devastating news for our members, many of whom have given long service to the company and all worked throughout the pandemic when food manufacturing was identified as an essential service,” said Gill.
"We will now enter into meaningful consultation talks with the company, where we will interrogate their business case for these proposed job losses. Our priorities are to keep as many staff employed within the business as possible and avoid compulsory redundancies.
“In the meantime, we are providing our members with the support, advice and representation they need at this difficult time."
New high, low moment
UK inflation has hit a new 30-year high as soaring energy costs, fuel bills and food prices continue to deepen the country’s cost-of-living crisis.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), consumer prices rose by 6.2% in the year to February, up from 5.5% in January, the highest inflation reading since March 1992.
Alarmingly, the runaway inflation is expected to get even worse, with the Bank of England predicting it to reach 8% in April, even touching 10% by the autumn.
Sparks added, “pladis is the proud custodian of some of the world’s best-loved snacking brands and we believe strongly in their enduring consumer appeal. But, like many other businesses, we are grappling with new and growing external pressures.
“We must, therefore, review and consider appropriate steps to safeguard the future of our whole business.”