Meeting with McVitie’s Management

06 Dec 2014

On Friday 5th December I met two representatives of McVitie’s management and was able to ask them a number of questions. Below are my notes of what management said with my comment at the end.

Firstly they gave me an overview and stressed that the Tollcross factory had been in serious danger of closing down completely as it had the highest costs of United Biscuits’ 7 UK plants. Production had been 50,000 tonnes but has been falling. The Company is facing serious competition from international competitors. Apparently the Tollcross plant has not hit budget for 10 years but is hoping to meet it in 2014.

They are spending £750,000 on improving the building and the roof will be replaced in phases. Scottish Enterprise have been providing support, e.g. financial help for training. They said they had been briefing staff through the last week. 485 jobs will be maintained with production going from 5 days to 7 and the 7 or 8 lines reducing to 4 in order to make production more efficient. In future the 7 United Biscuits plants will compete with each other to win the right to produce a particular product. Although the Tollcross factory is smaller than others, it is recognised as being more adaptable and better at innovation and new products. The Company’s aim is that all 7 sites should grow. They considered that the present position of some 17 shift patterns was not working. Their intention is to move to a ‘3 days on, 3 days off’ pattern of working, with all staff alternating between days and nights. They said they would listen and consult on this pattern (and other aspects of the plans) but they felt it was better for staff than ‘4 on, 4 off’ which some employers like Glasgow City Council use. One of their arguments is that switching all staff between night and day is better than permanent day or night shifts because it promotes consistency.

Apparently big customers tend to visit during the day. The management representatives said they are engaged in discussions with the unions (mainly GMB and Unite). The current plan is to reduce part time working. Some traditional practices like the building up of service days are likely to go. The timescales are that some jobs will go by voluntary redundancy fairly quickly – perhaps January. The aim is to have the new systems in place about July but things should be clearer in 3 months’ time. Overall it was very disappointing to hear of the job losses but a relief that the factory is not closing completely. The attitude of McVitie’s management seemed much better than Freshlink’s management when they closed some time ago. I am open to hearing from constituents/employees in the days ahead as things progress. I have told the management that I may well come back to them to raise further concerns or the cases of individual constituents.

Weekly Video Blog: Private Rents

05 Dec 2014

Motion S4M-11787: Black Friday Sales & Resulting Turmoil

03 Dec 2014

That the Parliament notes the recent turmoil and violence that it considers marred the Black Friday retail event in specifically chosen outlets across Scotland; further notes that this annual event has only recently been imported from the North American retail calendar; understands that Black Friday sales in the USA are often reported to have been tarnished with similar scenes as those experienced in Scotland; believes that the focus placed on the battle for limited discounts can help to encourage people to act in an aggressive manner during the event, and calls on both retailers and shoppers to act responsibly and safely in future.

McVitie’s Tollcross Redundancies

28 Nov 2014

In response to the announcement that as many as 202 McVitie’s Tollcross factory workers may be made redundant before Christmas, John said;

“Shocked to hear of potential 202 job losses at McVitie’s Tollcross.

I am very disappointed indeed to hear of these job losses at McVitie’s, one of the major employers in the east end of Glasgow.

Firstly my thoughts are for those staff losing their jobs especially at this time of year as we approach Christmas.

This is a company which I know produces a high quality product both under its own name and for other brands. I have visited the factory and the staff are clearly of the highest calibre with very modern equipment to work with. However, sadly the buildings they work in have been of a poorer quality.

This is a company with a long history and at least it is not closing completely. I appreciate that the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, and others have put long hours and effort into discussions with the Company in recent days. That appears to have limited the number of redundancies and I thank all those involved for their efforts.

I am also grateful that these negotiations have been kept confidential and that the staff have been informed before the situation became public knowledge.

United Biscuits appears to have been a very centralised company and has failed to use ‘Made in Scotland’ to its advantage. I believe they could have added value to their Glasgow products if they had done this, as many other companies in the food sector have done. Perhaps they will consider this in the future.

Ownership is also an issue here. Recently control of UB has moved to Yildiz Holding of Turkey; but control left Scotland long ago. Once again Scottish jobs suffer when ownership is elsewhere. In the longer term we need to look at how ownership of companies can be kept more locally. That is an advantage for local jobs, the local economy, and beyond.

I have contacted the Company with a number of questions and am seeking a meeting with them to hear more about what is happening.

However, the short term concern remains for individual employees and their families. If I can be of any assistance to them, they can contact me 24 hours each day.”