LONDON, June 14 (Reuters) - Consumer goods giant Unilever is to close four sites in Britain with the loss of 800 jobs, as it switches production to its largest British factory at Port Sunlight, northwest England, backed by a 40 million pounds ($62 million) investment.
The move involves sites acquired with Unilever’s purchase of haircare group Alberto Culver and Sara Lee’s personal care business over the past 18 months, along with a Welsh IT centre, as it moves jobs to Port Sunlight and India.
The group, which produces Persil detergent and PG Tips tea in Britain, said on Thursday that the closures could result in the loss of 500 jobs from its 7,500-strong UK workforce, while there could also be a loss of about 300 associated contractor and third-party jobs.
Unilever is proposing to close its haircare plant in Swansea and a small distribution site at Bridgend, South Wales, after it bought U.S. group Alberto Culver in 2011. The former Sara Lee plant in Slough, west of London, which makes Radox and other bath and shower products, will also close.
Production will move to Unilever’s historic home of Port Sunlight, where Lord Lever first started producing soaps and detergents more than 100 years ago. The moves are expected to create about 150 new jobs at Port Sunlight.
The closure of the two manufacturing sites at Swansea and Slough will reduce the number of the group’s UK plants to nine and lead to cost savings from more efficient production from fewer factories.
It is also closing its Ewloe IT site, close to Port Sunlight but just across the border in North Wales, with jobs transferring to Port Sunlight and to Bangalore in India.
Unilever said the review of its proposals is expected to be concluded by late 2012 and the moves completed by the end of 2013.
Britain’s biggest trade union, Unite, said that it was assessing the impact of Unilever’s move and will be meeting senior management this month to discuss the job cuts and future increased employment at Port Sunlight.