Unions have condemned the owners of the McVitie’s biscuit factory in Glasgow as an “absolute disgrace” for issuing redundancy notices to workers as politicians and businesspeople try to save the site.
Nearly 500 jobs are at risk at the closure-threatened factory in Tollcross in the city’s east end, which opened nearly 100 years ago and makes confections including Hobnobs and Rich Tea biscuits.
Union bosses have called for David Murray, managing director of McVitie’s parent company Pladis, to be “hauled” before an “action group” panel of council, industry and union chiefs which was set up by the Scottish Government to save the factory.
Pat McIlvogue, Unite industrial officer, said Mr Murray is “refusing to engage with the action group”, accusing Pladis of taking a “belligerent and arrogant approach”.
Turkish-owned Pladis has blamed “excess capacity” at its UK sites and plans to shutter the Glasgow factory in the second half of 2022 and move production elsewhere.
Mr McIlvogue said: “Everyone except the company is working together in order to bring forward options, which could save hundreds of jobs in the local area.
“Unite is again calling on Pladis to directly engage with the trade unions, the workforce and the Scottish Government to look at credible alternatives to closure.
“Pladis have a duty of care to hundreds of workers to jointly discuss with us what could be done to save jobs instead of this belligerent and arrogant approach which they have adopted.”
A spokesman for Pladis said: “We can confirm that we have today issued the HR1 notice; a letter which is a part of the formal consultation process on our proposal to close our factory in Tollcross.
“In recent weeks we have been frequently engaging with our trade union representatives and the Action Group co-chaired by Cabinet Secretary Kate Forbes and councillor Susan Aitken.
“We remain committed to meaningful consultation with our employees and their representatives.”
An online petition to save the factory currently has more than 52,000 signatures.
GMB Scotland organiser David Hume said the redundancy notices were an “act of extreme bad faith” and “a gross insult to hundreds of workers and their families who are fighting for their livelihoods and community”.
He said: “The rules of the game have now been changed by Pladis – the clock is now officially ticking on nearly 470 jobs and generations of food manufacturing that has endured austerity and prosperity, war and pandemic.
“David Murray needs to be hauled by the Cabinet Secretary before the members of the action group because this is a profitable business with an innovative workforce that can and should have a future in the east end of Glasgow.”
The next scheduled meeting of the action group, chaired by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, and Pladis is scheduled for next Wednesday.
Ms Forbes said: “This is really disappointing news and my thoughts are with those affected and their families. This will be a very anxious and distressing time for them, especially during these uncertain times, and we stand ready to provide support.
“Just last week, we presented a series of proposals as an alternative to site closure. We are therefore extremely disappointed Pladis has decided to notify staff they are at risk of redundancy.
“The Action Group is meeting again next week, where we will carefully consider the next steps and what more we can do to support affected staff and secure these jobs.”
Pladis acquired McVitie’s in 2014 after taking over United Biscuits, and is now the third-biggest biscuit maker in the world, the unions said.
The same year it cut the then 680-strong workforce by nearly a quarter, they added, but the factory remains a “major employer in an area with higher levels of social deprivation and unemployment”.
McVitie’s traces its roots to the original Scottish biscuit maker, McVitie & Price Ltd, which was established in 1830 in Edinburgh.