Meeting demanded over ‘closure’ of 321-worker factory

AN MP has demanded a meeting with a global firm that has announced plans to close a factory that employs hundreds of people.

Health product manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser has announced it is entering a 90-day consultation on a proposed three-year, phased transfer of production from its Peterlee plant to other factories owned by the giant firm, such as those in Hull and Nottingham.

If the move goes ahead, the Peterlee factory, which employs 321 people, would close in 2014. It would also see the loss of up to 30 jobs by the end of this year.

Easington MP Grahame Morris has hit out at Reckitt Benckiser, who only bought the factory in November last year from SSL, and is demanding a meeting with the firm.

He said: “This is a bitter blow at a time when the latest jobless figures show the North-East has the highest unemployment level in the UK at more than 10 per cent.

“It’s a personal tragedy for the workforce, particularly when Reckitt Benckiser revenues and profits have doubled over the last 10 years and they produce some globally popular branded medicine, such as Gaviscon.

“I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the company to see if anything can be done to preserve jobs at the Peterlee site.”

Reckitt Benckiser bosses said that at the time of purchasing the factory they announced that they would look at ways of improving overall efficiency and finding savings “where relevant and desirable”.

Now bosses say that the production at Peterlee, which makes up 10 per cent of the company’s UK health and personal care output, can be “absorbed” by other factories.

Rob Pettigrew, site director for Peterlee, said: “Our objective is to be transparent with our Peterlee colleagues.

“There is a wealth of talent within the factory and, should the closure go ahead, we are keen to look at redeployment opportunities across our other UK factories for those affected and provide as much support to them as we can over the next three years, working in tandem with the relevant agencies.”