Unilever To Restructure U.K. Operations

Proposals could result in the loss of 800 jobs.

Unilever, the parent company of Vaseline, TRESemmé and Dove, on Thursday announced proposals to restructure part of its manufacturing and business services in the U.K., which could result in the loss of 800 jobs among the firm’s employees and associated contractors.


The consumer goods firm said it plans to invest over 40 million pounds, or $62.2 million, in its Port Sunlight manufacturing plant in North West England, in order to make the plant a center for the “high-volume, high technology manufacturing of products from shampoo to shower gel.” Unilever also plans to create an “expert IT center” in Lever House at the same Port Sunlight location. The proposals would create 150 new roles at the site.


However, the plans would mean the closure of the former Alberto Culver manufacturing and distribution sites in Swansea and Bridgend in Wales and the former Sara Lee factory in Slough, just outside of London, by the end of 2013. As reported, Unilever purchased Alberto Culver in 2011 and acquired Sara Lee’s personal care business in 2010.


The proposals would also involve relocating 400 high capability roles from Unilever’s current IT site in Ewloe, Wales, with some moving to the Port Sunlight location and some to Unilever’s IT center in Bangalore, India.


Amanda Sourry, chairman of Unilever U.K. and Ireland, said of the proposals: “Like many companies today, Unilever faces the challenge of creating growth opportunities against a backdrop of very tough economic conditions in Europe. While Unilever is growing well in the U.K. and globally, it will always be necessary to make changes which raise our game and ensure our continued success. We believe these proposals would substantially strengthen our platform for long-term growth and competitiveness.”


Sourry noted that the employees who would be affected will be part of a consultation process, and acknowledged the “concern” the proposals would cause. Unilever expects the review of its proposals to be concluded by the fall, the firm said.