Belfast Telegraph

Glass firm staff face jobs axe in 30 days

A CO DOWN glass firm which may have to make its entire workforce redundant has blamed high energy costs for its problems.

Tough Glass in Kilkeel, which employs 46 people, has put its workers on 30 days protective notice of redundancy.

It's understood the company recently received an electricity bill of £36,000.

John Agnew, general manager of the plant, said: "It's really due to rising oil prices seriously affecting our input costs.

"We can't recover them from our customers because our main competitors are low-cost overseas suppliers."

Tough Glass, which cuts glass for clients in the transport and construction sector, was bought by Scottish firm Independent Glass after going into administration in 2008.

It was previously part of Coulter Construction.

DUP South Down MLA Jim Wells said: "In the absence of something significant happening in the next 30 days, there is a possibility of all the jobs being made redundant.

"Independent Glass invested money in the company and stabilised the situation and even took people on last summer.

"But one of the many reasons for their problems has been horrendous increases in energy costs in what is a very energy intensive sector."

He said the difficulties of Tough Glass could mark the end for a key industry in Kilkeel, with glass manufacturing having a history in the town extending back to the eighteenth century.

At the time of the company's early difficulty in 2008, he said few apart from Independent Glass expressed an interest in buying it.

Now BE Aerospace was the sole major employer in the town, employing 600. "We are losing a lot of the mainstay employers," Mr Wells said.

"A major supermarket advertised recently for two night-time shelf-stackers, and the posts attracted 240 applicants."

A spokesman for Toughglass said: "The board of directors of Toughglass have advised their 46 employees that the business will enter a formal 30-day consultation process as all the employees are at risk of redundancy due to ongoing trading difficulties the company have experienced over the last 12 to 18 months."

Mr Agnew said that with construction still in downturn and a generally bleak economic landscape, it was not a good time to be facing redundancy.

The spiralling energy costs which have affected the firm show no sign of abating with a barrel of crude oil, from which the energy market is priced, climbing to a two-and-a-half year high.

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