Job cuts at baby products firm

A BABY products plant in Suffolk is set to shed 90 jobs in the New Year, staff have been told. The Dutch owner of the Avent factory at Glemsford said it hoped to create more efficient operation at the plant, which currently employs 699 staff.

A BABY products plant in Suffolk is set to shed 90 jobs in the New Year, staff have been told.

The Dutch owner of the Avent factory at Glemsford said it hoped to create more efficient operation at the plant, which currently employs 699 staff.

The timing of the company's announcement, just over a week before Christmas, has come under fire from union Unite, but the company said it could have been criticised equally for keeping the news from staff.

Avent, which makes a range of baby feeding products, including baby bottles, breast pumps, feeders and sterilisers, was acquired by Dutch electronics group Philips two years ago in a £460million deal.


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Laura Wilkinson, corporate PR manager for Philips, said staff were informed on Monday of the job cuts plans, which would take effect in the first half of 2009.

The areas affected at the plant are engineering, support and maintenance.

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“It's looking at ways of making the factory more efficient,” she said. “There will be a reduction of 90 employees at the Glemsford site. That will take effect in the first half of 2009 and basically, the reason for it is a business optimisation measure to create a slicker working operation over there.”

She added: “They will continue production as it is for the demand there is but they are just reducing the number of employees. I think everyone has been affected by the economic downturn.”

Ian Marshall, Suffolk official for Unite, said: “Obviously, it's disappointing, and it's even more disappointing that they are announcing it a week before Christmas, which the staff there will I am sure find very unsettling. The reality is they won't know what's going on until after Christmas.”

Unite has a few members among the workforce, but there is no union recognition at the plant.

“We will obviously deal with any individual issues as and when they arise but in terms of collective input, if the company wants to talk to us, we are more than willing to do that,” said Mr Marshall.

Miss Wilkinson said management had made the announcement now because they wanted to let staff know what was happening.

“There is never going to be a right time to make this kind of announcement,” she said.

“If they had told them in the New Year, they could have been criticised because they would have known this was going to happen and they didn't tell them before Christmas. As soon as they knew this was going to happen, they made a decision to inform staff.”

Consultation with staff over the job cuts is due to begin after Christmas.

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