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Tuesday, 21 August, 2001, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Petroleum giant to close factory
BP has found it hard to maintain profits at Wilton
Oil company BP has announced the closure of its polythene-making factory on Teesside.

The Wilton plant, which opened in 1973, is to shut in October with the loss of 81 jobs.

The firm will try and relocate employees within BP and offer assistance with finding outside employment and training.

Donald Austin, BP Wilton site manager, said: "It has been increasingly difficult to maintain profitability at the plant.

Production costs

"Its age and related high costs of production and maintenance, combined with competition from newer, larger, plants have made Wilton unprofitable and led to this decision."

vera baird
Vera Baird: "News out of the blue."

Local Redcar MP, Vera Baird, said: "This announcement has come out of the blue, and has been a shock to the workforce.

"However the plant is very old, and although one-third the size of a modern one, costs the same amount to run.

"They have been trying to run up a down escalator for some time at Wilton."

The low-density polythene business was acquired from ICI in 1982 and BP took over operation of the business in 1996.

Tim Bush, regional organiser of the Transport & General Workers' Union, said: "We are obviously shocked by the decision of BP to exit the polyethylene market on Teesside."

The workforce is highly skilled and outside employment consultants Coutts have been brought in to assist them finding new posts.

Community pledge

There may be opportunities within BP in Aberdeen, Hull, and China, but the firm says generous severance pay will be awarded to those who leave.

The facility processes ethylene feedstock from Wilton or Grangemouth to produce over 100,000 tonnes of product per year, which is used to make items like plastic food bags.

Polythene from the plant has been sold throughout the UK and Europe for the past 28 years.

Mr Austin said that despite the closure BP would remain committed to its local community activities for the next three years.

See also:

07 Aug 01 | Business
BP's profits fall from record high
19 Jul 01 | Scotland
BP refinery boycott after toxic leak
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