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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Nestlé under fire for not halting production at Newcastle factory during Queen’s funeral

A confectionary giant has come under fire for not halting production at its Newcastle factory for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

Several members of staff at the Nestlé site in Fawdon, which is set to be closed down with the loss of almost 500 jobs next year, contacted the Local Democracy Reporting Service after being told they would have to work through the state funeral next Monday, September 19.

While the factory does normally operate on bank holidays and the sweets manufacturer says it must continue operations to “ensure the continued supply of food and drink”, some employees had hoped the company would make an exception for the historic occasion.

One worker called the decision “another kick in the teeth” for staff already reeling from the decision to shut down the plant in 2023, as production is shifted to facilities in the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, and West Yorkshire.

Newcastle’s Lib Dem leader Dr Nick Cott

Local councillor Nick Cott called on Nestlé to allow staff to mark a “day of national importance”, when many shops and other businesses are due to close out of respect for the monarch.

The Liberal Democrat said: “People want to pay their respects and I think all employers should give their employees the opportunity to do so, joining in with the rest of the nation in mourning the Queen. That is really important.

“This does also sit alongside the very difficult situation that staff in Fawdon are facing at the moment with uncertainty about the future as the factory is closing.

“It does not seem like asking too much for Nestle to allow staff to have a few hours to take stock and be there with the rest of the nation.”

Nestlé, which has held a royal warrant for more than a century, makes popular items including Rolos, Toffee Crisps, Caramac, and Fruit Pastilles in Fawdon.

The company said it was seeking to accommodate staff who want to take the bank holiday off to watch the funeral and would be screening coverage on TVs in the factory’s break areas.

A Nestlé spokesperson confirmed: “Our Fawdon factory will continue to run on Monday, September 19, as is the usual approach for bank holidays. This arrangement is to ensure the continued supply of food and drink. However, we are doing everything we can to accommodate requests for leave on the day of the funeral for those who wish to take the day off.

“All of those who do work will be given an additional day off in lieu at a time of their choosing. Television coverage of the funeral will be available in canteens and break rooms.”

It is understood that Nestlé staff who do work the bank holiday will receive a future day off in lieu.

Around 475 jobs are expected to the lost when the former Rowntree plant is closed down next year.

Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell said earlier this year that the decision would have a “huge effect” on both staff and the wider community, having been a major source of employment in Newcastle since the 1950s, and “could not have come at a worse time”.

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