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Hundreds of jobs at risk after Philips Avent announces plans to close down Glemsford factory in 2020

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GLEMSFORD: Philips Avent, Lower Road, Glemsford, Suffolk Picture Mark Westley. (6786164)
GLEMSFORD: Philips Avent, Lower Road, Glemsford, Suffolk Picture Mark Westley. (6786164)

Hundreds of jobs are at risk of being axed, after one of south Suffolk’s largest employers confirmed it will close its factory in Glemsford.

Philips Avent has announced plans to shut its baby care product manufacturing plant in Lower Road in 2020, affecting around 500 jobs.

The decision, which will see the factory’s production line relocated to an existing site in the Netherlands, comes after a review of the firm’s industrial footprint, with company bosses stating they had to “pro-actively mitigate the potential impact of various ongoing geopolitical challenges”.

Philips has repeatedly warned in recent months that the future of its Glemsford plant was uncertain due to the lack of clarity around the Brexit negotiations, and it needed frictionless trade with the European Union to be maintained for the site to remain viable.

Neil Mesher, CEO of Philips UK and Ireland, said: “I recognise our proposed plan will have a profound impact on our colleagues working at the Glemsford site, and our manufacturing presence in the UK.

“We have announced the proposal after careful consideration and, over the next period, we will work closely with the impacted colleagues on the next steps.

“The UK is an important market for us, and we will continue to invest in our commercial organisation and innovation programs in the country.”

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said he was “extremely saddened and disappointed” by the news.

He argued that the timing of the announcement – coming only days after Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal – could not be ignored.

“These job losses are not ‘project fear’,” he said. “They are real.”

The loss of the Glemsford factory, which primarily focuses on one category of products for export outside of the UK, is part of Philips’ wider reconfiguration of its supplier bases and supply chains in Europe, North America and Asia.

The company has confirmed it aims to reduce the number of manufacturing bases from around 50 sites globally to approximately 30.

Mr Cartlidge, who was in the minority of MPs to support the defeated Brexit deal last Tuesday, met with Philips’ leadership on Friday to discuss their plans and the future of its current staff.

“My first thought is for all those working at the plant, who now have to go into consultation about their future, which must be a very unsettling experience,” he said.

“Whatever the precise impact, it’s impossible to overlook the fact that this announcement came just after the Prime Minister’s pro-employment Brexit deal was voted down in the Commons.

“Whatever anyone says, it’s irrefutable production is not moving from Holland to the UK, but vice versa.

“I will continue to do everything I can in Parliament to support finding a Brexit deal that respects the referendum result, but seeks to do so in a sensible way, protecting our economy in the process.

“I am proud to have such a successful brand in my constituency, exporting all over the world, and a market leader in the US.

“Now that great brand will be leaving to the EU, and all those exports will go from Holland to the US, not from Suffolk.

“This strengthens my resolve to keep pressing for a sensible way forward that prioritises British industry.

“I don’t want to see our economic success stories moving away. I want new ones being created here.

“That will require certainty for investment that will come from securing a stable way forward for our country.”