Unilever has decided to close two sites in North America as part of a shake-up of its ice cream business on the continent.

The Anglo-Dutch group, maker of brands including Magnum and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, said its offices in Wisconsin and Ontario would close.

Unilever will relocate the ice cream businesses to its US headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and to its Canadian HQ in Toronto.

The company said that the move would enable it "to leverage the full resources and expertise of the combined organisation and drive competitive advantage for its ice cream business in the US and Canada".

Unilever added that the move was consistent with its policy of having one operating company per geography, stipulated under its global "One Unilever" plan.

Some 275 employees working at the offices in Green Bay and Oakville will be affected, the company said. However, operations and jobs at the ice cream manufacturing plants are not affected, while the company's Ben & Jerry's arm will continue to be run out of Vermont.

"Ice cream is one of the most important categories in Unilever's global portfolio and our North American Ice cream team has done an incredible job over the last ten years building our business," said Unilever Americas president Michael Polk. "Our decision to integrate this team into Unilever's US and Canadian operations will further strengthen the business' competitiveness by leveraging the power and scale of Unilever's large US and Canadian organisations."

News of the closures comes as Unilever faces industrial action in the Netherlands where it plans to close three of its six plants. A strike halted production at all six sites yesterday (11 October).

Unilever's Dutch employees had already decided to launch strike action after talks on new working and pay conditions collapsed two weeks ago. But following the announcement of the closures on 9 October, employees now also want guarantees that they will be offered help to find future employment.