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Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 14:36 GMT

Business: The Economy

Textile workers' jobs plea

Up to 500 jobs in the industry disappear each week, say unions

Textile workers from across the UK are expected to turn out in force to lobby Parliament on Wednesday as unions warn of tens of thousands of job losses in the industry.

BBC report explains why thousands of jobs must go
Unions say that 500 jobs are disappearing every week after two decades of govenment "neglect."

In recent months, the strong pound combined with economic turmoil in Asia has sent the industry into a nosedive.

Job fears

The industry employs some 370,000 workers, which is 10% of the entire manufacturing industry.

Textile representatives are expected to travel to London from textile centres such as the Midlands, Scotland, Yorkshire and the North West.

The Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) has drawn up a 'Plan for Textiles' document calling for increased investment, support for exports and more interest rates.

Annus horribilis

TGWU textiles spokesman Peter Booth said: "This year has been one of the most difficult for the industry in living memory.

"It is estimated that over 25,000 people could lose their jobs in the industry this year, mainly because of the overvalued price of sterling and loss of markets in the Far East."

Marks and Spencer, the UK's leading retailer, has caused a storm by announcing it plans to buy more of its clothes from overseas.

The move could have dire consequences for the textile industry and unions have been lobbying the company furiously in an attempt to get it to change its mind.

Two weeks ago, clothing designer and manufacturer William Baird, one of Marks & Spencer's main suppliers, announced it was closing another two factories with the loss of over 400 jobs.

The company blamed the closures on falling demand and the economic slowdown.

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