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Fears for glass plant jobs as talks begin

Post Time:Feb 19,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:348

UNION representatives, who today begin talks over the future of a threatened North-East glass factory, last night said they were “not optimistic” it could be saved.

German firm Schott revealed on Monday it was reviewing options for its Newton Aycliffe site, which manufactures flat glass and employs up to 200 people.

Schott said the business had been suffering large losses over recent months and may have to close as a result.

It would be the latest blow to hit the area, which has seen a number of job cuts over recent months.

Schott makes glass oven doors and cooker tops, and struggled to cope when one of its major customers, Electrolux, closed its cooker factory in Spennymoor, County Durham.

It has begun a 90-day consultation with staff and their representatives.

Tim Bush, a regional organiser with TGWU/Unite, said: “At this time I am not optimistic and there is a strong possibility the plant will close.

“There is a big ask coming from the company who want to make significant savings within the plant.

“At the moment we are looking to get some meat on the bones in terms of what they are after and whether it is achievable.

“But a gun is being held to the head of the employees, because if these significant savings cannot be found then the plant will close.”

Mr Bush said a number of cost-cutting measures were already in place, including short-time and flexible shift working, while a number of middle management redundancies were made at the end of last year.

He said workers were “surprised and upset by the announcement, coming as it does at this very difficult time”.

Mr Bush added: “There is some anger that the company is looking to the UK for costcutting, as it seems to be cheaper to get rid of people’s jobs here than anywhere else.

“It has been suffering for the past 12 to 18 months. It lost the Electrolux business, but managed to get business from elsewhere.

“However, the subsequent shrinking of the white goods market has blown that out of the window.”

Bob Fleming, the leader of Aycliffe Town Council and the former leader of Sedgefield Borough Council, said: “Newton Aycliffe is the second largest industrial estate in the North-East and as such we rely very heavily on light engineering and firms very similar to Schott glass.

“This situation is a concern and we are very worried about the current trend.

“Unfortunately, it could get worse before it gets better and the question we have to ask is are the efforts that are going into getting the economy going again really working?”

The credit crunch bites

● Last month, most of the 180 staff at furniture company Europa Sofabeds, on Newton Aycliffe’s Heighington Lane Business Park, were made redundant after administrators were unable to save the business.

● During the last three months of last year, the town’s biggest employer, car parts maker Thyssenkrupp (TK) Tallent, announced proposals to make 286 of its 830-strong workforce redundant.

● In December, Microchip maker RF Micro Devices, which took over Filtronic’s plant in the town, announced plans to make up to 99 workers redundant, nearly a third of its 300-strong workforce, after seeing a dramatic downturn in demand.

Source: thenorthernecho.co.ukAuthor: shangyi

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