Arla Foods' plans to close its Hatfield Peverel dairy processing plant and outsource its logistics operation to Bidvest Logistics have been slammed by union Unite.

The move comes just one year after Arla outsourced its outbound logistics at its Leeds operations to Moran Logistics along with the transfer of 100 drivers.

The strategy will see Arla’s 32 dairy drivers and logistics staff at the Hatfield Peverel, Essex, site transferred to Bidvest Logistics. Another 198 employees at the dairy will either be made redundant or relocated to Arla’s Aylesbury site, which will take on the bulk of the Essex processing operation.

Unite regional officer Mark Barter said: “This is very bad news for the workforce and their families – it leaves a sour taste in the mouth. There is not much similar employment in the area and the commute to Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire would be far too much on a daily basis.

He added: “We are also very concerned about the proposal to transfer a further 32 logistical and driving staff to Bidvest Logistics – we would want to ensure that there is no erosion of pay and conditions, if they are Tupe’d to this new employer.

In a statement the company confirmed its plans to close the Hatfield site by the end of July.

Dan Kolding, senior vice president, supply chain, Arla Foods UK said: ”We are entering into full consultation with all colleagues affected by both proposals, and their trade union representatives. We are committed to supporting affected colleagues at this difficult time and will do everything we can to support them in their search for suitable alternative employment, either within Arla or elsewhere.”

Unite, which represents 137 members at Hatfield Peverel, is set to meet with Arla’s management to discuss the proposed closure on Friday (11 March).

“We will be asking for the reasons why this plant has had to close – we will require a full explanation,” Barter said.