Today, following the conclusion of a review into the future of the site, Unilever has announced a proposal to close its Warrington washing powder factory, where Persil and Surf laundry powder detergents are manufactured. We appreciate this is difficult news for our 123 employees at the site and we will do everything we can to support them in the coming weeks and months.
Over recent years, there has been a sustained and irreversible decline in demand for washing powder, as consumers increasingly switch to other types of laundry product, particularly laundry liquids and laundry capsules. In the last four years market volumes have fallen by 15%. This trend is set to continue, and as a direct result of this structural shift in the market, the Warrington factory is now running at less than half its capacity.
As well as proposing to close the Warrington site, Unilever has shared with employees the intention to move the majority of production of laundry powders to an existing manufacturing partner in Europe, with some smaller volumes to be moved to Unilever’s other sites. This proposal is subject to consultation with Trade Unions and employee representatives.
Following the January announcement, the factory’s management team led a thorough review together with Trade Union and employee representatives to look in detail at potential options for the site. During the review, they shared information about the work Unilever had done so far to evaluate different options including:
- Consolidating powders production by moving manufacturing from other Unilever factories to Warrington
- Further restructuring the site in an effort to ensure future competitiveness
- Investigating the option of a sale of the Unilever factory as a going concern
- Moving the volumes of washing powder currently made in Warrington to another Unilever site, or a manufacturing partner
The review group also carefully considered how to reduce operating costs of the site and ensure its commercial sustainability, including those put forward by Trade Union and employee representatives.
Jon Strachan, VP of Supply Chain for Unilever UK & Ireland, said: “Following the review we have, unfortunately, been unable to identify any commercially sustainable solutions for the site. Therefore, with regret, we are now proposing to close the factory.
“We know that this news will be difficult for our employees and the broader community, and we are firmly committed to supporting them in every way that we can, should the proposals go ahead. Unilever has a number of factories in the UK and here in the North West, so we will discuss any redeployment and reskilling opportunities for our affected employees as part of consultation.
“We would like to take the opportunity to thank all of those who were involved for their passion and their commitment to the review.”