Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Coca-Cola in Threat to Halve Morpeth Staff; Group Acts a Month after Buying Firm

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Coca-Cola in Threat to Halve Morpeth Staff; Group Acts a Month after Buying Firm

Article excerpt

Byline: Graeme King

JOB losses are threatened at Northumberland drinks firm Waters & Robson just a month after Coca-Cola bought the near century-old business.

The American multinational is said to be consulting 49 of the 91 employees in Morpeth about restructuring, despite previously saying it intended to invest in staff.

The Journal has been told employees at Waters & Robson, which produces Abbey Well mineral water, were called to a meeting on Thursday to start the consultation process and one source said "most of the office staff" and "all the sales team" were expecting to be sacked.

The Northumberland business community was shocked last month when pounds 19bn turnover Coca-Cola said it had bought pounds 11m turnover Waters & Robson and there was some concern about the US company's intentions.

But promises of investment from Coca-Cola Enterprises GB boss Simon Baldry placated those who feared for the future. Mr Baldry said then: "We are looking forward to working with employees and the local community to develop the business.

"We will be investing in the company's employees and site infrastructure to ensure bottled water production at Morpeth goes from strength to strength."

But exactly a month after the deal was announced, job cuts are on the agenda.

A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said: "Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) is considering how best to integrate the Abbey Well business into its existing operations. CCE is a responsible employer and has started consultation with Abbey Well employees on proposals regarding the best way to achieve this.

"No decisions will be taken until the consultation process is completed. The integration could mean job opportunities for some Abbey Well employees; however, there may be job losses."

One worker who contacted The Journal yesterday said: "We were stunned. The mood is terrible. We had assurances they weren't going to do that. They were going to keep the staff. Now they're going to pay off all the staff apart from the factory staff and they're on about bringing their own drivers in. They're saying it will be after Christmas, but people are frightened to talk in case they lose their jobs before then. …

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