120 factory jobs under threat

By Dave Gooderham and Patrick LowmanCOMMUNITY leaders fear an unemployment crisis in their town after a company announced it was set to close its factory with the loss of 120 jobs.

By Dave Gooderham and Patrick Lowman

COMMUNITY leaders fear an unemployment crisis in their town after a company announced it was set to close its factory with the loss of 120 jobs.

American-owned pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough Ltd has revealed there was a “real possibility” it may close its manufacturing site in Mildenhall.

The announcement came just months after the town's 70-year-old dairy, owned by Parmalat Dairies, decided to relocate, with the loss of 150 jobs.

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Schering-Plough Ltd has now started a three-month consultation process with staff over the possible closure of the site, which assembles and packages pharmaceutical products, with a decision due in December.

A company spokeswoman said audits had revealed the factory would require full renovation, costing millions of pounds.

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Forest Heath district councillor John McGhee, whose son works at the pharmaceutical factory, said: “I am very disappointed about the news, it is sad for everyone in the town.

“Coming so soon after the dairy, it is a real blow and you have to be worried about the state of employment in Mildenhall.”

John Taylor, chairman of the Mildenhall Community Partnership, which aims to promote the town, added: “I feel bitterly disappointed on behalf of these people losing their jobs. It is a massive blow for the town, another one in a series of closures recently.

“But you have to look on the positive side - if they close the factory, we will have a lovely, big building which will be a wonderful opportunity for someone to come in and take over.”

Schering-Plough Ltd, based in Chiswick Avenue, has been part of Mildenhall town for almost 25 years.

Its spokeswoman said: “Following several recent internal and external audits, the company has concluded that to comply with European Union and corporate good manufacturing practice standards, the facility at Mildenhall would require full renovation, including machinery and equipment renewals and headcount increases in key quality areas.

“Estimates indicate that investment in a state-of-the-art facility which fully complies with UK and corporate good manufacturing practice standards would conservatively amount to several tens of millions of pounds.

“On the other hand, one-off costs incurred in phasing out the site would be approximately one quarter of that sum and the business activities fairly easily assumed by other company sites.

“Based on this and all the other information available, the company does not consider that it would be economically viable to continue the site for its current purpose of the assembly and packaging of pharmaceutical products.

“Therefore there is a real possibility that the final decision will be to close Mildenhall, which would mean that all the jobs on the site are potentially redundant.”

n A 150-strong workforce at one of the region's longest-established silk weaving firms has been assured jobs are safe, despite a £5.3million management buyout bid.

The takeover of Silk Industries PLC, which controls Vanners Silks in Sudbury and a silk printing firm in Macclesfield, looks certain to go ahead if shareholders accept the offer tabled by the 11-strong management team.

Non-management shareholders have been offered 49p per share, which totals £5.3m. The bid has been announced at the Stock Exchange and is expected to be accepted in the near future.

The management team has decided to go for a buyout option to secure the future of the firm, which they said had become too small to remain a public limited company.

It also moved to reassure staff the takeover would make little change to the day-to-day operation of the business and all jobs would be safe.

Silk Industries chairman, David Tooth, said: “The takeover will make very little difference to the operation and job security will still be there.”

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