'Serious mistake'

Unite slams Unilever plan to sell successful tea division as company profits climb

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Unite has warned Unilever that plans to sell off its £2.75 billion a year tea business, reiterated today (July 23) during the company’s announcement of its half-yearly financial performance, are a ‘serious mistake’.

Unilever confirmed that it is still planning to sell most of its tea divisions by 2021 following the release of the latest half year results that show the company’s profits have climbed by 3.8 per cent.

Unite has more than 150 members at Unilever’s Trafford Park PG Tips factory in Manchester and represents more than 1,500 workers across the company’s UK operations.

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said, “Our members, who continued to work in factories and at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, have been instrumental in ensuring Unilever has achieved a 3.8 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to £3.5 billion during first-half of 2020. Despite this, the company is pressing on with plans to sell its profitable tea business by 2021, including PG TIPS, Brooke Bond and Lipton.

“Unilever conducted a similar process in 2018 within its spreads division, with Flora and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter sold to KKR/Upfield just as plant-based foods exploded into the mainstream,” he added. “Doing the same thing with its tea division would be a serious mistake. It makes no sense to throw away businesses that still make considerable profits and have long term futures simply because they are not growing fast enough.

“Our members who produce tea at Trafford Park are deeply concerned at Unilever’s plans to spin off a profitable £2.75 billion a year business,” McCarthy went on to say.

“Unilever normally prides itself on investing in the long term, but this decision is particularly short sighted given its purchase of Pukka Tea in 2017 and the recently launched Lipton cold brew teas. It is in nobody’s interests except the speculators for Unilever to sacrifice profitable and sustainable businesses for the sake of short-term returns.”

By Ryan Fletcher

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