Tea firm’s grant blow welcomed by union

THE news that Twinings is no longer in line for millions of pounds of European funding after work at its North Shields factory is moved to Poland will come as little consolation to the hundreds of North Tyneside workers set to lose their jobs.

However, both north east MEP Fiona Hall and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) have welcomed the announcement, hoping it will send a message to other firms considering relocating.

Twinings announced in November 2009 that it intended to move most of its tea production to Poland and China, resulting in the closure, with the loss of 263 jobs, of its North Shields factory, pictured, and the loss of a further 129 jobs at its plant in Andover, Hampshire.

It subsequently emerged that Twinings was in line to receive a European Union grant of £11m towards the cost of its new £40m factory in Poland.

Usdaw has always maintained that the grant would be in breach of EU rules as it would help subsidise the export of UK jobs to elsewhere in Europe.

Union general secretary John Hannett said: “We hope it will send a clear signal to other companies that they cannot misuse or exploit EU funds to make UK workers redundant and relocate elsewhere in the union.

“Sadly, it doesn’t alter the fact that nearly 400 workers in North Shields and Andover are losing their jobs and livelihoods, and yet we still haven’t heard whether our own government is going apply for EU funds to assist them.”

Lib Dem MEP Ms Hall added: “I welcome the fact Twinings will no longer receive this grant.

“EU rules are clear that funds cannot be used to relocate jobs.

“It is reassuring that the European Commission is willing to act when it considers money is potentially being misused.

“Unfortunately, the decision does not help the 260 people who will lose their job when the North Tyneside plant closes. It is vital that we now focus efforts on ensuring there are new jobs for these people to go to.”

A Twinings spokesman said: “Our decision to build a new factory in Poland was part of a project to put our manufacturing facilities in the right place for the markets they serve, with over 90 per cent of UK production remaining in the UK but production for foreign markets moving closer to the country in question.

“Twinings remains committed to the UK and is investing more than £6m in its Andover facility.

“This plan was not based on receiving any external funding.

“It is normal practice for businesses to review potential available grants and, where relevant, apply for them if they support the development of their business.

“Twinings applied for a grant and considered that we did satisfy its conditions, but any grant application is an ongoing process subject to meeting eligibility criteria and satisfying a number of requirements, which the relevant authorities have now indicated may not be met.

“Our investment plan was not reliant upon receiving any grant and the project continues.”