PILKINGTON has announced it is to axe 150 jobs after uncompromising far east competition forced it to “mothball” one of its UK float lines.
The iconic glassmaker’s parent NSG Group says manufacturing will cease on the UK6 float line and the solar cutting operation - at the local Greengate and Cowley Hill sites - by the end of April.
David Pinder, the managing director of Pilkington Building Products UK, admitted it was “a very difficult decision to make”.
But he stressed that the company remained in good shape in the UK marketplace, that the job losses would not affect the new development at Cowley Hill and that the float line could still be restarted in future.
Mr Pinder told the Reporter: “This all stems from our inability to compete in the solar energy market, particularly in the far east. But in the UK market we are still very competitive.
“The number of redundancies would have been even higher had we not been investing in the new coated glass facility, which will create 35 jobs in the first year and, ultimately, around 50 jobs.”
Trade unions were briefed about the job losses last Thursday (February 2) and a series of employee briefings - planned to cover all workers on both sites - were launched by local management.
Pilks currently employs more than 1,000 people in St Helens and around 3,000 across the UK.
The shock news of the cuts came just two months after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited Pilks’ Cowley Hill line.
Mr Clegg was in St Helens to mark the £5m worth of investment that the Government’s Regional Growth Fund was pumping into the creation of the new coated glass production facility, with the company injecting £28m.
An NSG Group statement read: “The NSG Group has announced its intention to mothball one of its three float lines in the UK. This will result in a reduction of 150 roles across two sites, both based in St Helens.
“Management and trade unions will start consultation on how to achieve this reduction.”
It added: “The group has experienced a reduction in many of its core markets, including the European building products market. The global market for solar energy glass has also worsened significantly during the third quarter.
“While the longer term prospects for these markets remain positive, the group does not expect to see an early recovery within the next financial year.”