Drinks firm should 'repay loyalty' over cider closure
An Irish drinks giant has been urged to find a buyer for one of Britain's oldest cider plants.
The Shepton Mallet mill in Somerset is to close in the summer with 120 jobs on the line and the threat that it will bring a 246-year-old tradition to an end.
Trade union chiefs in Unite said Dublin-based owner C&C should repay the loyalty of staff after it shifted cider-making to one of its plants in Ireland.
Regional co-ordinating officer Steve Preddy said Shepton's famous brands such as Gaymers, Blackthorn and Olde English, coupled with highly-skilled workers, should make it an attractive proposition for a buyer.
"Since buying the plant in 2009, C&C has profited from the association with Shepton, which has been synonymous with cider-making for centuries," he said.
"It is unacceptable that the company should now decide to divest itself of the plant and its loyal workforce without a backward glance."
C&C announced the Shepton closure in January although it vowed to keep pulping fruit in the town and to source apples for its Irish cider-making from Somerset farmers.
It subsequently sold a bottling line at at the site to Brothers Drinks, also a maker of cider, saving a number of jobs.
Mr Preddy claimed Ireland has its own experience of global companies pulling out in moves which devastate communities.
"Unite members are therefore particularly disappointed that an Irish multinational, such as C&C, should be effectively discarding not only the Shepton facility and its workforce, but also the long tradition of cider-making which made Shepton such an attractive location in the first place," he said.
"We are calling on C&C to repay the loyalty and hard work of the Shepton workforce by finding a buyer to take on the main Shepton site as a going concern, thus preserving a tradition of cider-making in the town stretching back to 1770.
"We believe that iconic brands, combined with a highly-skilled and motivated workforce, would make Shepton a very attractive proposition for a buyer."
When announcing the Shepton closure at the start of the year C&C said it was ending production in Somerset and in one of its Irish plants in Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary.
The move was to expand operations in Clonmel, where 80 staff were being hired as the town became the main location for Bulmers and Magners, Tipperary Water and niche premium beers and ciders.
C&C warned that trading in the UK and Ireland had been intensely competitive in recent years.