Belfast Telegraph

Almost 200 jobs to go as Carron Phoenix plant in Falkirk to close

An historic sink manufacturer has announced plans to close and transfer production to eastern Europe, with the loss of almost 200 jobs.

Carron Phoenix in Falkirk will shut in stages as production is moved to a new plant in Slovakia.

Switzerland-based owner Franke blames "intense pressure from other international manufacturers" for the closure and said it hopes none of its 211 staff will have to be made redundant before 2017.

About 15 warehousing jobs will be retained as the firm creates a new logistics base in Falkirk.

Franke operations director Bart Doornkamp said: "R egrettably we have been left with no choice but to close our three existing facilities in Falkirk, Brunssum in Holland and Zilina in Slovakia, and centralise our production on a more efficient, purpose-built greenfield site in Slovakia which will open in spring 2017.

"This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We examined in great detail the option of upgrading the Falkirk plant but the high level of investment that would have been required made the business case simply unsustainable.

"Consultation with the trade unions is a priority to ensure that we undertake an orderly, phased closure of the plant by December 2017."

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith described the news as a "devastating blow" to workers, their families and the Falkirk community.

He said: "The past year has seen a succession of large closures and job losses which will have negative consequences for workers and local economies for years to come.

"It is essential that government at all levels immediately challenges the owners' decision to transfer production at a time when order books are full.

"The Scottish Government must also ensure that every effort is made to support workers at this time of great stress and uncertainty."

GMB Scotland regional officer Gary Cook said: "This is another hammer blow to the Scottish economy and the workers are absolutely devastated.

"Once again, Scottish workers are left pleading for a government intervention to try and save their livelihoods and skills - a depressingly familiar scenario that cannot continue unchallenged.

"GMB Scotland will campaign to fight this closure but if this latest blow cannot focus the minds of our politicians on the crisis in manufacturing, then I don't know what will."

The firm started in 1759 as the Carron Iron Company, which at its height employed 5,000 people and was the largest ironworks in Europe.

During its heyday, the company owned a fleet of steamships and issued its own currency to enable global trading.

The factory became famous for making the Carronade canons used by Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo and later began making red telephone boxes and postboxes.

The original firm fell into receivership in 1982 and was bought out by management before being sold to Franke in 1990.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "The Scottish Government's PACE team are seeking urgent discussions - and will work closely with the company - over what action can be taken to mitigate any job losses.

"These are undoubtedly difficult times for the workforce and the community and it is vital that the company co-operates with relevant agencies to ensure the best interests of those employed at the plant are put first.

"The Franke Group has set out a phased closure for the Falkirk site and despite assurances of no redundancies before the start of next year, staff will understandably want as much information as possible over their immediate future within the company."