Mars may switch jobs to eastern Europe

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The Independent Online

The chocolate maker Mars is expected to announce several hundred redundancies tomorrow at its plants at Slough in a move that workers fear presages a switch to eastern Europe.

The chocolate maker Mars is expected to announce several hundred redundancies tomorrow at its plants at Slough in a move that workers fear presages a switch to eastern Europe.

Production at its two factories will halt for 24 hours tomorrow evening in preparation for meetings at which employees, or "associates" as management calls them, will be told about the future of production at the Berkshire town. The plants make Mars and Twix bars, Minstrels and M&Ms.

The workforce believes some products will be switched to Eastern Europe - possibly Poland or the Czech Republic - to take advantage of lower labour costs. Mars has been making chocolate bars in Slough since the 1930s and employs 1,600 workers there.

Frank Loveday, of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, which has failed to gain bargaining rights at the plants, said he would meet plant representatives on Sunday to discuss their options. He said many of the associates were joining the union because of fears over job security.

Michael Jenkins, the director of external relations at Mars, confirmed the company would report back to employees tomorrow on a "transnational communication programme" involving employees across Europe. He refused to comment on the possibility of redundancies.

It is understood that the company has been under pressure to cut prices from supermarket chains. Operating profit in Europe fell 15 per cent to £166m in 2003. Staff believe the company could be about to close other plants in Europe.

Mars management likes to emphasise that the brand originated in 1911 in the kitchen of Frank and Ethel Mars in the city of Tacoma in Washington state. Three of the family are now counted among the richest people in the world.

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