The on-going campaign to get a fair deal for the hundred local workers who will lose their jobs due to the closure of Vibixa in Cheltenham by owners Weetabix was today taken to Westminster by Martin Horwood MP.
Pressing ministers this morning, he demanded confirmation that when a profitable company shuts down a profitable subsidiary, laid-off workers should get a redundancy package that properly suits those circumstances.
Martin told the Commons that ministers would “share my concern that family brand-name Weetabix are closing their packet printers Vibixa in Cheltenham, with inevitable consequences for more than 100 employees and their families and after the company was denied the sales force that could have widened their customer base.”
He asked if ministers agreed that “when a profitable company closes a profitable subsidiary, best practice would be to offer the most generous terms possible to employees, some of whom have served Weetabix for 35 years, and not something barely better than the statutory minimum”.
Responding to Martin’s concerns was Jo Swinson, Lib Dem Minister of State for Business, Innovation and Skills said “I absolutely share your concern,” and went on to confirm that Martin was “quite right to highlight that the statutory minimum is indeed that- it’s a minimum, and it is certainly not what one would expect from a profitable employer that has a real care for its staff, to be going to the minimum when it can afford to pay more.”
Martin added “Weetabix are offering slightly more than the statutory minimum to Vibixa employees but we know other local employers in comparable situations have been much more generous. This is not the first time we have faced a company closure in Cheltenham, but this is the first time I have had constituents complaining with such bitterness at the way they are being treated.”
“I asked Vibixa and Weetabix management to meet me to discuss these concerns over several weeks. They and their PR company finally met with me yesterday, after it became clear I would be raising my concerns in Parliament, but I am still not satisfied that they are giving my constituents the fair deal they deserve. This is not the attitude I expect from a household name like Weetabix, and I will do whatever I can to get the best possibly outcome for my constituents and their families.”
Vibixa confirmed in October that the factory would be closing early in the New Year, and that all 105 employees would lose their jobs.