The business on: Thomas Twining, Founder of Twinings Tea

James Moore
Tuesday 07 September 2010 00:00 BST

Hang on, isn't he dead?

You'd be right there. The founder of one of Britain's iconic brands – Twinings Tea – actually passed on several centuries ago, but he's almost certainly turning in his grave now.

Why's that then?

His successors have decided to move the Twinings factory to, erm, Poland. And if that's not bad enough, in a quite extraordinary piece of corporate crassness, staff who are facing the axe have been told they have to train up their Polish replacements before they go. Apparently, it's part of their terms and conditions, and their union (Usdaw) says staff have been told they cannot refuse because it is a reasonable request.

Presumably they're not best pleased by that

Would you be? Usdaw has said that workers were more or less resigned to the jobs going to Poland but described them being asked to train their successors as "rubbing their nose in it". Management, however, say there are plenty of workers who are interested in doing the training. So believe who you want.

Isn't Twining more or less responsible for us drinking tea?

He certainly played a big part in it. When the Chinese drink first appeared in London there was some suspicion about it – the standard breakfast tipples were coffee or, er, gin and ale. But Twining persisted, and the rest is history.

Don't his successors boast of their 'Tea with Standards'?

Funnily enough, they do just that. There's a section on their website devoted to how the company wants "people to be able to drink Twinings tea without worrying about the welfare of the people who picked it". Shame the same doesn't apply to its workers here, really.

A bit of a rum do, then. What would Twining say?

Who knows? Perhaps those who are cross about what's happening should take a (tea)leaf from our cousins across the pond who poured tea into the sea when they got upset. Or they could just try switching brands.

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