Twenty four Arla Foods drivers took redundancy after the firm’s decision to close its Hatfield Peverel dairy processing plant in July rather than transfer to a new employer, has learnt.

The 24 drivers, along with seven logistics staff, were set to be transferred to PCL 24/7. The firm is owned by Bidvest Logistics, which was taking on transport duties.

They would have been relocated to Arla’s Aylesbury site as a consequence.

However the affected drivers opted to take redundancy due to the distance they would have had to travel to get to the Aylesbury depot, which is 72 miles away from Hatfield Peverel.

Unite regional officer Mark Barter told, that the transfer to the Aylesbury site “would have led to an unreasonable and unsafe travelling time, added onto an already full day of driving, therefore, it wasn’t suitable alternative work".

“All our members agreed that they would, therefore, prefer to take redundancy which the company agreed to, so none of the drivers transferred over to Bidvest in the end,” he said.

An Arla Foods spokesman confirmed the redundancies this week, stating that while under no obligation to do so Arla as a responsible employer took the decision to offer enhanced redundancy to the affected drivers.

He said: “The twenty four drivers affected by the proposal collectively requested, via Unite union for Arla, to consider redundancy rather than move under Tupe to PCL 24 7."

He added that of the seven other logistics support staff, six took redundancy and one stayed with Arla. One driver left the business before the formal transfer process began.

Confirmation of the redundancies emerged as Unite said it would pursue a case against Arla Foods, which it accuses of failing to adequately consult with the full complement of 230 employees - across various disciplines - that were based at the Hatfield Peverel site.

Barter confirmed the union is pursuing its case against Arla Foods.

“In regard to the claim for failure to consult, unfortunately, talks to resolve the issue at the conciliation service, Acas broke down and we weren’t able to find a mutually agreeable position, so a claim has been lodged with the employment tribunal and we are awaiting a date for the hearing.”