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East Anglia Future 50

Hundreds of jobs to go as Philips Avent plant in Glemsford to close

PUBLISHED: 21:50 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 21:54 17 January 2019

Philips Avent in Glemsford. Picture: Phil Morley

Philips Avent in Glemsford. Picture: Phil Morley

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A factory that employs around 500 people in Suffolk is to close down and Brexit has been blamed.

The Philips Avent factory in Glemsford. Picture: Phil MorleyThe Philips Avent factory in Glemsford. Picture: Phil Morley

A factory employing around 500 people in Suffolk is to close, with some workers pointing the finger at Brexit.

Philips Avent announced plans to move the majority of operations from its factory in Glemsford, near Sudbury, to its innovation and manufacturing site at Drachten in the Netherlands, with the remainder going to Indonesia.

Workers were told a “full site shutdown” will happen next year and that a staff consultation process will start next month.

One worker, who did not want to be named, said they had been told the closure was part of a wider strategy to reduce the number of sites: “Ninety per cent of the goods we make are exported out of the UK. We were also told that Brexit was an additional reason in the decision, it was a factor.”

Philips Avent in Glemsford. Picture: Phil MorleyPhilips Avent in Glemsford. Picture: Phil Morley

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Leann Hofmann, 34, of Stoke Park Drive, Ipswich, who works as an operator said the news, although sad, was not a shock

“I’d been expecting it to happen in two or three years, rather than as soon as next year,” she said.

“A lot of people were crying. Many of the workers at the plant have families to feed and it’s going to be really hard for them.

Philips Avent in Glemsford. Picture: Phil MorleyPhilips Avent in Glemsford. Picture: Phil Morley

“I’m British so it’s not difficult for me to find another job, but lots of other employees aren’t and are worried because they can’t speak English very well so they are worried about finding a new job.”

Neil Mesher, chief executive of Philips UK and Ireland, told the East Anglian Daily Times the closure was part of a wider global strategy and would have been made “regardless of Brexit”.

He said he recognised the proposed plan would have a “profound impact” on colleagues working at the Glemsford site, and on its manufacturing presence in the UK.

“The timing of the announcement is difficult, but regardless of the situation with Brexit we would still be making this announcement,” he said.

“We have known we would be doing this since 2017. We are consolidating our operations, from 50 to 30 large sites, and the products made in Glemsford will be made in Holland and Indonesia in the future.

“We have announced the proposal after careful consideration, and over the next period, we will work closely with the impacted colleagues on next steps.

“Philips has a long, established history of serving customers within the UK, and we remain committed to them. The UK is an important market for us, and we will continue to invest in our commercial organization and innovation programs in the country.”

Local MP James Cartlidge said he was “extremely saddened” to hear of the closure and would be speaking to Mr Mesher about the decision.

He said: “I am proud to have such a successful brand in my constituency, exporting all over the world, and a market leader in the US.

“Now that great brand will be leaving to the EU, and all those exports will go from Holland to the US, not from Suffolk. I am gutted and this strengthens my resolve to keep pressing for a sensible way forward that prioritises British industry.”

The Suffolk company started as Cannon Rubber, a family business established in 1936 manufacturing hot water bottles.

It created the sub-brand ‘Avent Naturally’ in 1984 to launch a new type of baby bottle that was short with a wide neck.

The company was acquired by Philips in 2006.

It employs 430 full time contracted employees at Glemsford, and many more are employed indirectly through an agency.

Philips Avent changed the employment agency it uses earlier this month, from OSR Recruitment of Norwich to Randstad Solutions Ltd, based in Luton.

The move resulted in many employees complaining they had lost holiday pay and other benefits.

Mr Mesher said the decision to end the contract with OSR had nothing to do with the decision to close down the Glemsford factory.

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