Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, is calling for an inquiry into the sale and subsequent collapse of the AstraZeneca site in Avonmouth Bristol.

In December 2016 the site and the workforce were transferred to the start-up pharmaceutical company Avara for just £1. As part of the deal Avara continued to supply AstraZeneca’s branded drugs to the company.

Redundancy promise

When the transfer was completed the 230 staff at the site, the vast majority of whom are members of Unite, were given “cast iron guarantees” verbally and in writing that if the plant closed in the first three years, then AstraZeneca would honour the enhanced redundancy rights of the transferred staff.

In February this year the site went into administration, however despite the previous assurances on redundancy payments from AstraZeneca, the multibillion pound conglomerate has refused to pay the affected staff the enhanced redundancy payments which are estimated to be £14 million.

Failure to consult

Due to the failure of Avara to inform and consult the workforce before making them redundant, Unite has taken legal claims for a protected award on behalf of the workers. If the claim is successful, due to Avara being in administration, the taxpayer will have to pick up the bill. Any financial awards will be substantially less than the workers would have received if they had remained employees of AstraZeneca.

Unite is also concerned about the future of the site which is estimated to be worth in excess of £100 million.

Unite regional secretary for the South West Steve Preddy said: “AstraZeneca’s sale of the site to Avara needs to be fully investigated, either by the relevant parliamentary body or a financial regulator.

Workers treated appallingly

“Unite’s members have been treated appallingly and so called ‘cast iron guarantees’ have been proved to be entirely worthless.

“AstraZeneca is a multi-billion conglomerate and £14 million is small change for the company but it makes a huge difference for our members, many of whom have spent their working lives at the site.

“The workforce are the latest victims of bandit capitalism. The powers that be are allowing these practices to continue unchecked and have learned nothing since the Carillion scandal.

“Questions also need to be answered about who now owns this piece of prime real estate and what plans there are for this site.”


Notes to editors:

Ending bandit capitalism: Learning the lessons following Carillion’s collapse

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: barckley.sumner@unitetheunion.org

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.