Arla Foods has expressed surprise after Unite said it had instigated legal proceedings in respect of the planned closure of the Hatfield Peverel dairy.

Arla intends to close the dairy by the end of July, and in March said 32 drivers working from the site would transfer to Bidvest Logistics, which will be taking on transport duties.

At the time Arla said it was “entering into full consultation with all colleagues affected by both proposals, and their trade union representatives”.

However a statement from Unite today (2 July) said it had begun legal proceedings against the food company, claiming it “failed to properly consult the workforce and their union when it announced that 230 jobs were under threat at the Hatfield Peverel site.”

Unite said if the case goes to an employment tribunal, it believes “the total costs and damages for the company are likely to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds”.

Unite regional officer Mark Barter said: “Our claim is that Unite was effectively only consulted on the consequences of the decision to close the site after the decision had already been made.

“There was no consultation on ways to avoid the dismissals and/or reduce the number of dismissals in good time prior to the decision actually being made, as required, or at all.

Arla's surprise

A statement from Arla said that the company was “surprised by the statement” and that it had “liaised with Unite throughout the collective consultation process and continue to work closely with our colleagues through individual consultation.”

The statement added:  “We have undertaken and continue to consider a wide range of actions to mitigate the number of people impacted by the proposed closure through redeployment internally to other sites or by securing alternative employment outside of Arla where possible.

“We are urgently seeking clarification from Unite as to why they have issued this statement at this time, which we do not believe assists any of those impacted by the changes at the site.”