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Jobs blow as vehicle parts factory gears up for closure with loss of more than 200 staff

PUBLISHED: 07:30 16 January 2020

Delphi diesel systems factory at Sudbury is set to shut this year  Picture: GREGG BROWN

Delphi diesel systems factory at Sudbury is set to shut this year Picture: GREGG BROWN

Closure plans for a large engineering factory at Sudbury are on track to be completed this year - with the loss of more than 200 jobs.

Delphi's closure date approaches  Picture: WILL WRIGHTDelphi's closure date approaches Picture: WILL WRIGHT

Delphi Technologies announced plans to shut its Delphi Diesel Systems plant back in 2017 and says it remains on schedule to close it this year. Baby bottle making plant Philips Avent at nearby Glemsford, employing 425 staff including 50 temps, is also due to close this year - dealing a massive blow to jobs in the area.

In 2017, 500 staff were still employed at Delphi, but many have now taken the enhanced redundancy packages on offer and left. In its heyday, it employed around 2,000.

MORE - Urgent plea to Delphi to retain Sudbury site for industry and jobs

The American-owned conglomerate decided to move the manufacturing operation - which makes diesel fuel injectors and filters for commercial vehicles - to Romania. Labour costs there are lower - but Unite the Union maintains there are problems with getting a workforce in the eastern European country with the high skills levels required.

"We've continued to say their skill set isn't the same as it is at Sudbury," said union official Neal Evans. But he added: "We think their overall strategy is to pull out of the UK altogether, and we think eventually that will prove to be the case."

Inside the Delphi Diesel Systems factory in Sudbury  Picture: GREGG BROWNInside the Delphi Diesel Systems factory in Sudbury Picture: GREGG BROWN

As well as the job losses, the firm's departure will potentially open up a row over the future of the site, which as well as the factory, includes car parking, a social club and a large playing field. It is understood it is still up for sale.

Delphi had a deal lined up with developers Charterhouse Property Group to turn the site into housing, but workers were told at the end of September last year that the sale had fallen through, and that it would "engage with other bidders on the reserve list". So far no buyer has been announced.

The union - which disputed the company's claim that the plant wasn't efficient - wants to see the site maintained for employment purposes.

"At the time the site was making a profit of around £1m a month," said Mr Evans.

Sudbury is set to suffer a jobs blow with the shutting of its Delphi diesel systems factory  Picture: WILL WRIGHTSudbury is set to suffer a jobs blow with the shutting of its Delphi diesel systems factory Picture: WILL WRIGHT

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Unite fears that when the company pulls out later this year, the site could be left empty.

A spokesman for Delphi Technologies said: "In mid-2017, Delphi Technologies announced the planned closure of the Sudbury site, following extensive consultation with employees and their representatives. At that point there were approximately 500 employees, around 60% of whom have so far taken redundancy packages.

"There are currently just over 200 employees still working at the site and the closure process remains on track to complete this year. Discussions are ongoing in relation to the sale of the site and we are unable to provide further detail at this stage."

South Suffolk Taskforce, chaired by South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, is planning to meet in around four to six weeks to discuss the situations at Philips Avent and at Delphi.

Mr Cartliddge said he wanted to get the task force up and running in order to understand the latest position at the two sites.

In July 2019, the taskforce expressed disappointment after the company revealed its intention to sell the entire site to Charterhouse Property Group solely for housing development - going against the Babergh Local Plan.

The task force, which includes representatives from Babergh Mid Suffolk, Sudbury Town Council, and New Anglia Local Enteprrise Partnership (LEP) has been pushing for the highly skilled Delphi workforce to be retained.

Chris Dashper, head of programmes for New Anglia LEP said: "The preference of the LEP is for Delphi's highly skilled and experienced workforce to be retained in another commercial operation on the site, and we are working with the South Suffolk Taskforce, chaired by James Cartlidge, to try and achieve this."

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