Firm axes 200 jobs in Colchester

ONE of a town's biggest employers is to axe 200 jobs from its main manufacturing plant in a bid to cut costs and generate investment for its toothpaste tube making business.

ONE of a town's biggest employers is to axe 200 jobs from its main manufacturing plant in a bid to cut costs and generate investment for its toothpaste tube making business.

Colchester-based Betts UK announced yesterday it would be shedding nearly half its workforce in a move to close down part of its operations by September next year.

Bosses have told all 500 staff it wants to transfer its plastics injection-moulding business to US company Nypro to allow them to concentrate on more profitable operations.

The packaging company, which has worked out of Colchester for around 40 years, has two separate businesses at its large Ipswich Road plant.

It employs 300 people to make laminated tubes for food, toothpaste and other products while another 200 work in its smaller plastic moulding business, which makes components for medical devices such as asthma inhalers.

In 2002, Betts axed 97 jobs from its other moulding plant in Wrexham, North Wales and grew its Colchester workforce by 50.

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At that time, the company said it wanted to consolidate the business in Colchester and “continue to develop its pre-eminent position in the pharmaceutical and general moulding markets in Europe”.

Although turnover from the moulding operations in excess of £15million a year, the company said that business was not competitive in the global marketplace.

By closing down those operations, Betts believes it can safeguard and grow its tubes business in which it claims to be a world leader.

Jobs will be cut in a phased process from March until September next year.

During that time the company hopes to transfer its existing customers to its new strategic partner, Massachusetts-based Nypro Inc – a world leader in the moulding sector.

Betts director, Neville Chapman, who has worked at the Colchester business for five years, said: “It's a sad day for everyone, but this decision will enable us to secure the 300 jobs in our laminated tubes business and enhance our pre-eminent reputation.

“The staff are probably not surprised by the news, but they have been very professional. We will try to re-deploy as many as possible, but it would be wrong to portray that the bulk of the 200 will remain with the company.”

A spokesman for the Transport and General Workers Union said representatives would be meeting senior company managers on Tuesday.

He said: “Nearly half the workforce will be out of a job by this time next year and we feel it's only right that we know why.”

“We'll be pressing the company for the full reasons behind this decision to see if there is any way we can change their minds. It is another sad day for manufacturing.”

Colchester MP Bob Russell said: “This is desperate for the 200 involved, but I applaud the company's approach to give the workers as much time as possible to find other work.”

Kevin Bentley, cabinet member with responsibility for business at Colchester Borough Council, said: “The announcement is disappointing. We will be working with Betts to try and help minimise the pain for the people involved.”

He said: “It's not a disaster, but it is unfortunate - 200 jobs is a lot. Keeping jobs in Colchester will be our priority.”

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