ST HELENS’ Pilkington Glass factory which makes glass for the building industry is to close with the loss of 140 jobs in a “devastating blow” to the economy.
Pilkington said that, following a business review, it had decided to end manufacturing at its Cowley Hill float site in St Helens, Lancashire.
A company statement said: “The current economic downturn has impacted severely on float glass volumes, resulting in overcapacity, reduced prices and lack of profitability in the float product segment for the company in the UK.
“As a result, a decision has been taken to adjust production capacity to match profitable customer demand.
“The company will be opening a voluntary redundancy window to mitigate the impact of compulsory redundancies. Discussions have commenced with employees and their representatives.”
Managing director Matt Buckley said: “This is a very difficult decision for the company. Demand for architectural glass (replacement windows, new houses and new offices) is insufficient to warrant the number of float lines in the UK.
“This segment of our business is hugely loss-making and we have had to address it in order to protect the rest of our business.”
The GMB union said that following job cuts last week at Tata Steel and yesterday’s 1,700 shipyard job cuts, people were entitled to ask what sort of economic recovery the UK was experiencing.
The company employs 2,500 people in the UK, including 1,350 in the North West of England.
Charlie Leonard, regional officer of the GMB union, said the news had come as a shock, adding: “It is a devastating blow to the economy of St Helens and to the workers and families of the 140 who will lose their jobs.
“We will meet with the company to fully understand the position and to assess what can be done to mitigate the extent of job losses.
“The closure of this high tech production plant and the loss of highly skilled, well-paid jobs is yet another major blow to the core of UK manufacturing.
“It represents a rolling back of national capability as float glass production is a UK invention. Last week it was steel jobs going, also due to lack of demand in construction. Yesterday it was shipbuilding jobs. People are entitled to ask what sort of recovery are we seeing?”