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Cath Everett

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Tea workers expected to train cheaper replacements

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Staff who are due to lose their jobs at an iconic British tea company have reacted angrily to demands that they train foreign workers scheduled to replace them next year.
 
 

Twinings’ bosses announced last November that they intended to close the company’s factory in North Shields with the loss of 263 jobs. The aim was to transfer production to either Poland or China by September 2011 as part of an efficiency drive.
 
At the time, 22 MPs signed a Commons’ motion condemning the move, although the campaign was unsuccessful. Some 4,000 people have since joined a Facebook group in a bid to save the plant, however.
 
Workers told the Daily Mail that, when the closure was first announced, volunteers would be offered the chance to extend their contracts for six months by going over to Poland to help train workers there.
 
But staff have now been told that, as of next week, they will be required to train two waves of employees from Poland visiting North Shields for three weeks at a time.
 
One employee who asked not to be named said: “It’s rubbing salt in the wound because they are taking our jobs yet we have to train them. There’s a lot of animosity here towards them. People are very angry.”
 
Usdaw union rep Jayne Shotton said: “The workers at Twinings had resigned themselves to the fact their jobs were going to Poland. But I think to bring Polish workers over here and expect them to be trained by Twinings workers who are losing their jobs is like rubbing their noses in it.”
 
Twinings had not consulted with the union on the issue, but Usdaw would be raising the matter with the company, she added.
 
A spokeswoman at the firm confirmed that the contentious situation was to take place. “Next week Twinings will be welcoming a handful of new employees from Poland to the North Shields site. They will be visiting to familiarise themselves with the tea-making process and receive training.”
 
While the company recognised that it was a difficult time for staff at North Shields and appreciated some people would prefer not to participate, many employees were willing to do so, she added.
 
“A significant number of our employees have also expressed interest in the opportunity to train Polish employees at the new site in Poland. We will be making further details available to staff about this initiative in the coming weeks,” the spokeswoman said.

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