Blow as Nestlé closes Yorkshire chocolate factory

CHOCLOLATE maker Nestlé is closing its plant at Castleford in West Yorkshire and moving production to Halifax, it announced today.

A total of 210 jobs will be lost when the factory, which has been in Castleford for more than 40 years, closes at the end of 2012.

The company says it aims to offer workers there alternative jobs in the company.

But union bosses described the move as a "body blow" to the town.

Unite regional officer, John Mallinder said: "Unite has two goals - to see that production of the plant remains in the UK, thereby safeguarding jobs; and that the Castleford workforce is redeployed to Nestle's Halifax plant 10 miles away."

"This is a body blow to Castleford as the Nestl plant is the last big manufacturing facility in the town, which has already lost its chemical factories and mining industry.

"Nestle is the largest confectionery company in the world and there should be plenty of scope for the hard working and dedicated staff to be redeployed. Halifax, which makes Quality Street chocolates, would be the obvious and logical place for such a deployment."

The Castleford site makes After Eight mints and Toffee Crisp bars. Nestle said 90% of this production would remain in the UK, with the majority of After Eight production transferring to Halifax.

But "a small proportion" of export production would move to the After Eight plant in Hamburg, and Toffee Crisp production would transfer to Nestl's factory in Newcastle.

David Rennie, Managing Director of Nestl Confectionery UK said: "Nestl Confectionery is performing well in a very tough market but we have to continue to operate as efficiently as possible to remain competitive.

"We are sharing this proposal with our employees in Castleford at the earliest opportunity. Our aim is to offer our people alternative jobs with Nestl and we hope that as many of them as possible will stay with the company."

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper said: "This is big blow for Castleford, and is grim news for the workforce in the run up to Christmas.

"It is particularly worrying that private sector jobs are being hit, when we know big job losses are also coming in the public sector. Our area must not be abandoned like it was in the 80s and 90s.

"I think it is important local workers are given first choice of the new jobs in Halifax and offered any training and support they may need to find new jobs with other local businesses."

Toffee Crisp was originally made in Halifax by its originator John Mackintosh & Sons, who also produced Quality Street chocolates. The firm merged with York-based Rowntrees in 1969 and became part of Nestl in the Eighties.