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Twenty staff face axe as chipboard firm holds talks on future

Nearly 20 jobs are at risk at a Co Londonderry manufacturer of chipboard as the downturn in construction continues to take its toll.

Spanboard is holding talks with its staff at its plant in Coleraine over the future of the operation.

Operations manager William Laverty said a consultation with staff had started but that the closure of the operation was still a possibility.

"The consultation process looks at every possibility."

"The decision to enter into consultation has been taken in the face of increasing costs and shrinking margins in an industry that is still very deep in recession.

"It will be of little consolation, but at this difficult time, I would personally like to thank our loyal workforce for their hard work and dedication.

"We have commenced talks with union representatives, and will be focusing on talking to our employees, customers and suppliers regarding the next steps."

The company makes and distributes melamine laminate around Ireland. Around 90 staff were made redundant three years ago.

Mr Laverty said the downturn had hit its customers in the Republic even harder than Northern Ireland. "The level of activity is very low in the construction trade, which is what we service, and customers are also finding it difficult to obtain credit.

"There is a limited amount of money to go around in any business."

He said many of the staff - including himself - had worked for the company for three decades.

"The focus for myself now is to do the right thing for the staff," Mr Laverty added.

The business was bought by Portuguese parent Sonae Industria Group in 1989.