THE 350-strong workforce at cleaning products manufacturer McBride’s are set to lose their jobs when the firm closes its Burnley factory in March.
The firm says no employees have yet been given notice and production will continue as normal at the plant off Windermere Avenue, while talks are ongoing.
Burnley Council officials were to meet company bosses yesterday to hear the reasons behind the decision and try to come up with a rescue plan.
Daytime staff were told about the multi-national company’s decision at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The night shift was told at 6 p.m. by group human resources manager Malcolm Allan.
The firm says it needs to cut its operating costs. It has five factories across the north of England, but only Burnley is working at full capacity and has no room to expand. McBride’s produce household and personal cleaning products as own brands for leading supermarkets and lists Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Asda and Tesco among its clients.
The Burnley plant specialises in trigger cleaners, one of the company’s core growth areas. It is understood that work from Burnley will be transferred to Middleton, with some also going to its plant in Bradford and a little to its Hull operation. However, very few employees from Burnley are expected to transfer.
Mr Allan said the firm was trying to consolidate its assets and it could not bring work to Burnley from its other plants as the factory was already full and has no room to expand. The factory was originally housed in the former Britannia Mill, Ruskin Street, starting in 1970. It was taken over by BP Oil Ltd in 1978 and expanded in the 1980s amid storms of protest from neighbours.
Mr Allan said: “It’s not quite as simple as trying to find another factory, but I am not saying there is no hope for Burnley if we can avoid full closure. We are in talks and expect the factory to run normally. I am sure our colleagues will prefer to have an input into what is happening.
“We don’t know how many jobs are available at other plants as we have not worked through the detail, but it likely to be tens, not hundreds.”
MP Gordon Birtwistle said the announcement was devastating. “It’s terrible news, absolutely devastating.” He said he would be speaking with local managing director Craig Beard about the future. “It’s desperate”, he said. “It’s a proposal at the moment, unless Burnley Council can come up with something. The old Michelin site has loads of space, but the factories were never renovated.
“They have mountains of work, but the fact is the site cannot expand or be made bigger. The tragedy is that they have the work and workers, but nowhere to go.”
Burnley Council leader Charlie Briggs said: “We were aware McBride’s were reviewing their current situation and were in discussions about their possible relocation within the borough. We are disappointed with the decision they have taken.
“At this stage we know McBride’s main concern is related to the constraints of the site and buildings. The decision as we understand it has nothing to do with the productivity and commitment of their Burnley workforce.”
Of the future, he said: “We will continue discussions with the company and if they finally confirm their decision to relocate, we will work with Job Centre Plus to help staff potentially facing redundancy to find alternative employment.”
A statement issued by the firm said the announced proposals expected to lead to the closure of its Burnley site had been made to drive down costs and improve operational efficiency.
The statement continued: “All options are being explored, however, the Burnley site is constrained in terms of physical space and offers no scope for the expansion required to absorb other sites.
“Under the proposals announced, the site would close in March 2012 giving an extended period of time to allow for meaningful consultation to take place. Formal consultation has begun with the Burnley Works Council on the proposals. Should the proposals go ahead every effort will be made to provide the employees affected with a full programme of support and where possible redeployment opportunities will be explored.”
The company’s chief executive, Chris Bull, added: “The proposals have been made with considerable regard to the personal impacts they will have and we will do everything we can to mitigate the effects. However, the challenging economic climate we are facing means that to become more competitive and retain our market leading position it is essential we explore ways to reduce our costs and improve the efficiency of our business.”