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Tea to China plan sparks MP anger; Protest at Twinings' latest move.

Byline: Amy Hunt

TEA company Twinings has sparked a Parliamentary outcry with plans to shut down its Tyneside factory and move jobs abroad.

Some 22 MPs have signed a Commons motion condemning the firm's intention to shut its plant in North Shields and urging the Government to intervene.

The motion comes as unions are due to stage a separate protest in London today over National Grid's outsourcing of jobs from Newcastle to India.

Last month Twinings unveiled plans to axe 263 workers in North Shields and reduce the number of staff at its plant in Andover, Hampshire, from 278 to 149.

The company, owned by London-based AB Foods, said it was looking to slash its UK workforce and transfer work to China and Poland.

The firm, which has manufactured tea for more than 30 years, wants to move production to China to take advantage of the growing popularity of tea in Asian markets and sees Poland as a more central location for its European expansion.

But in a Commons motion, MPs said the business remained "hugely profitable", making more than pounds 56m, and expressed alarm about the impact on the Tyneside economy due to Twinings' decision.

Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell, Sunderland North's Bill Etherington and Wearside MP Fraser Kemp are among MPs to have demanded action.

They want Twinings and its parent company ABF to reverse their plans, maintaining the plant in North Shields and full production in Andover. And the motion "calls on the Government to intervene as a matter of urgency to prevent such unnecessary loss of jobs in the UK".

Last month, Twinings said one third of its UK production will move abroad with the remaining work based at the Andover site. The factory's closer location to Southern ports meant it was favoured over the North Shields site.

Earlier this month workers from Twinings demonstrated outside a meeting of the firm's shareholders in London over the job losses.

Usdaw union representative Jayne Shotton met with regional organiser Mike Parsonage and North Tyneside MP Stephen Byers to speak to Twinings' international supply director Marcus Cotter-Stone in advance of the protest outside Congress House in London. Ms Shotton said: "There is absolutely no reason to close the factory in North Shields. The company's biggest market is France, so what is the sense of moving most of its European operations over to Poland?" As part of Twinings' announcements last month, head of manufacturing Peter Willetts said: "We understand that this announcement will come as a shock for our employees at North Shields who could not have done more for our business."

GMB union members are also due to stage a protest outside the utility industry achievement awards in London today over what it says are National Grid's plans to make 189 people redundant at the Newcastle site while investing in sites in India.

Company bosses announced the closure of its office at the Quorum Business Park in Longbenton in October. GMB officials say the jobs are to be out-sourced to Tata, the transnational Indian conglomerate whose Tetley Group makes the world famous Tetley teas.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 14, 2009
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