Mars cuts 700 jobs across UK

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The Independent Online

The chocolate bar company Mars is to axe 700 jobs in Britain and switch the manufacture of some products to Poland, Holland and Germany, it was announced yesterday.

The chocolate bar company Mars is to axe 700 jobs in Britain and switch the manufacture of some products to Poland, Holland and Germany, it was announced yesterday.

Some 500 posts are to go at the group's two plants and offices at Slough with the rest to be shed at five other factories in Leicestershire, Peterborough, Kings Lynn and Leeds. The cutbacks are due to be completed by the end of the year and management is seeking volunteers for redundancy.

Pierre Laubies, president of Masterfoods Europe, which owns the confectionery company, said the initiative was prompted by the need for growth and competitiveness. "We need to be leaner and more focused," he said.

The company's "restructuring" programme comes amid general concern about confectionery sales which have been static in most parts of Europe. Management believes it needs to cut back its capacity and slim down its workforce.

Masterfoods said it was shedding 1,000 jobs across Europe and pointed out there would be up to 250 redundancies in France and 120 in Germany.

The company intends to withdraw from its Liverpool Road plant in Slough over the next two years and consolidate its operations in the Berkshire town at the Dundee Road factory.

Company sources said the severance payment on offer would be three times the level of the statutory minimum which offers most workers a week's wages for each year of service. Unlike the legal minimum there would be no cap to the amount on offer.

Production of Mars bars will remain in Slough where the iconic chocolate bar was first made in 1932. Other products will be transferred overseas such as the Starburst sweet which will be made in Poland and the Twix biscuit which will be switched to Holland and Germany.

Frank Loveday, regional official of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union, attacked management for refusing to deal with his organisation. He said the company had made £140m last year and wanted to make more. "The managers have also been given huge pay increases. It is sick."

Mr Laubies said: "We aim to capture the engagement and dynamism of a small business with the benefits of international scale."

He said Mars had a "special culture" and shared special beliefs with its workers. "We will, of course, honour our obligations to consult at national level.

"All the arrangements we propose for associates to achieve these necessary major changes will be fair and consistent with our record and reputation as a leading and responsible employer."

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