Hundreds of jobs set to be lost in south Suffolk as factory gears up for closure
- Credit: Archant
Around 425 workers at a baby bottle making plant are being offered help to find new jobs as it prepares to close later this year.
Philips Avent - whose shock plans to shut its Glemsford factory were revealed at the beginning of 2019 - will not disclose a timetable, but has confirmed that full closure will go ahead in 2020.
The huge job losses are a major blow to the area - as most of those employed at the factory are very local to the area, coming from south Suffolk and north Essex.
The huge factory site is being offered up for sale through Savills. Although as yet there is no news on a buyer, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) confirmed there had been interest and viewings.
But - less hopefully - the LEP admitted that as it was a very local workforce based largely in South Suffolk and North Essex, "limited similar opportunities exist in the area".
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The company previously confirmed it had plans in motion to make the move out of Glemsford and into sites in Holland and Indonesia since 2017. It wants to consolidate its operations from 50 to 30 large sites as part of its wider global strategy.
The Suffolk site employs 375 permanent staff and around 50 temporary workers. No redundancies are planned for January, but it remains the case that the firm would be shutting the site this year, a spokeswoman confirmed.
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"We have not provided any external guidance on the timelines of activities and do not have plans to do so. Instead, we continue to remain focused on supporting our employees and marketing the sale of the site," she said.
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge - whose constituency also faces the loss of more than 200 jobs with the planned closure of the Delphi engineering plant at Sudbury - welcomed news that Philips would be hosting a jobs fair on site for affected workers. He is concerned with securing their futures - and a future for the site, he said.
He didn't want to raise expectations, he stressed, but his office had been contacted by "at least one local business" interested in finding out more about the factory site.
He planned to reconvene the South Suffolk Taskforce in four to six weeks to update members on the situation and look at what can be done. "What we would hope to achieve is an update on the timescale of closure and redundancies and any success in staff finding new employment," he said.
Chris Dashper, head of programmes at New Anglia LEP, described what it was doing to try to help workers and secure the future of the site for employment purposes.
"Options for support include working with the Department for Work and Pensions and other agencies along with Philips to give the workforce at Philips Avent as much support as possible," he said.
"This could include employment events and job fairs, introducing them to other employers, helping them re-train or giving advice about starting their own businesses. We are also supporting the marketing of the site through the Department for International Trade to encourage inward investment and the reuse of the asset as a commercial opportunity."
The LEP described the Glemsford site as secure, "with a flexible mix of modern and older buildings suitable for a variety of operations, good power provision, operation/logistics yard and car parking".
"Philips is focused on finding a suitable future occupier that will take as much of the workforce as possible." It was "unlikely" that the site could be significantly redeveloped for homes given the rural location, it added.
The LEP is supporting a number of initiatives to help staff find new jobs through employment events and job fairs, re-training, introducing staff to other employers and offering advice on how to start their own businesses.
Philips reiterated its previous statement that it was focused on supporting its affected employees "in the most constructive way possible" and finding an industrial buyer for the site so the plant can continue to deliver economic and employment value to the area.
It would continue working with the South Suffolk Taskforce and other organisations who have offered help, it said, adding: "Production at Glemsford will end in 2020."