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40 more jobs to go at Silver Spring in Folkestone

By Folkestone Herald  |  Posted: August 20, 2011

  • Job losses: Silver Spring, seen here during a visit by then MP Michael Howard in 2008, faces staff cuts

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UP TO 40 jobs are being axed at troubled soft drinks plant Silver Spring – and the current factory may close as part of the drive to cut costs, the Herald can reveal.

Staff at the Park Farm Road plant were told in group meetings on Thursday night that the workforce was being slashed from 130 to about 90 because sales had suffered in the poor weather.

One worker, referring to previous rounds of redundancies, told the Herald: "We seem to be one of the most long-suffering and squeezed groups of employees around."

As well as the redundancies, 200 product lines are being ditched and chief executive Gary West told the Herald that the firm was considering closing the current "inefficient" factory and relocating locally.

Mr West said some of the buildings were in poor condition and management is evaluating its options.

The cuts will affect employees in production, logistics and engineering, and the sales team will be reduced by about half.

This paper reported before Christmas that 42 employees had been made redundant, while one worker, sacked for chewing gum in a production area after a series of warnings, died weeks later in an apparent suicide. The firm's retail delivery arm, Silver Spring Direct, also shut down.

Our source said: "We had been hoping the redundancies before Christmas would be the last wave of cuts, so this news was pretty gutting.

"I feel quite battered and bruised working here, and let's just say morale and atmosphere aren't tip-top. It's been a turbulent few years; it wasn't so long ago that about 300 people worked here.

"With the factory possibly relocating, I'm now wondering if that will mean more cost-cutting and redundancies in the future."

The company, which has been in Folkestone since 1870, was taken over by private equity firm Privet Capital in 2009.

Kent Channel Chamber of Commerce manager Sezen Zeki said: "It's definitely a negative because we're in need of local jobs.

"If a positive could come out of it then I hope that this helps protect the company's future."

Mr West, who joined the board last autumn, said the company had "turned a corner" at the start of the year but had struggled to shift products since June. He called it "an economic issue, not a Silver Spring issue".

He said the group is cutting its portfolio of 300 products down to 100 and would focus on core brands like Perfectly Clear water and 1870 mixers.

He said the seasonal nature of the business meant staff could be taken on in busier summer periods, but when asked about the possibility of future redundancies he said "never say never".

He added: "We've now got a new funding package in place and have secured a 50-year agreement with Veolia to secure our water source.

"The long-term building blocks are in place."

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