DHL Supply Chain said its decision to close its Tradeteam depot in Sheffield and downgrade the site at Ebbw Vale, South Wales with the loss of more than 250 jobs was taken to protect the long-term future of the business and avoid having to make further redundancies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A campaign by the Unite union has since led to the rescue of a further 13 full-time jobs as Ebbw Vale becomes an ‘outstation’ and other work is transferred to Swansea.

A spokesperson for DHL Supply Chain told motortransport.co.uk: “As previously stated, the Coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on the UK hospitality industry which has required us to take a number of difficult decisions to protect our drinks logistics business for the long term. Without taking these measures, there was a very real risk to the wider operation which could have jeopardised even more roles in the future.

"Throughout the consultation process we have worked closely with Unite the union and have complied fully with all legal requirements and processes, including agreeing to Unite’s counter proposal at Ebbw Vale which has saved 13 full-time roles.

"We fully appreciate that these are stressful times for all concerned, but we have acted legally and ethically throughout the consultation process to protect as many jobs as possible for the future.”

The Unite union has accused Tradeteam of taking taxpayer-funded furlough cash, while planning to close the Sheffield site and downgrade Ebbw Vale, which, the union said, was "sharp practice; legally correct, but morally bankrupt".

The Sheffield depot at the Tinsley Industrial Estate officially closes on 14 August when about 200 drivers and warehouse staff will lose their jobs.

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The customers served from Sheffield include Carlsberg, Coors, Mitchells & Butlers and Whitbread.

More than 50 jobs at the Ebbw Vale site are also being made redundant.

Unite national officer for road transport and logistics Matt Draper said that some of the Sheffield work had been transferred to Tingley, Leeds where the workers were working flat out to meet the higher than forecast demand, reinforcing the view that there was no need to close the profitable Tinsley site in the first place.

Unite regional officer for Tradeteam members in Wales Dave Gunter said: “We were astonished that the Ebbw Vale site was targeted as it is a profitable depot with a dedicated workforce. We regard it as an unnecessary and immoral move to axe more than 50 jobs.

“However, due to the tireless work of the Unite reps and local management, we were able to salvage 13 full-time jobs, by turning it into an outstation, with the transfer of some additional work to the Swansea depot, which may generate additional jobs and provide longer-term security for those currently employed.

“This, of course, is no consolation to those loyal employees, many with long service history, who have been denied the right to continue to provide for their families in this current environment by the actions of the top bosses at DHL Tradeteam.

“I would also like to thank Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, and Welsh Parliament MS Alun Davies and their teams for their assistance and support during our campaign to maintain the depot at Ebbw Vale.”