Page last updated at 09:31 GMT, Saturday, 5 September 2009 10:31 UK

Bausch & Lomb set to axe 500 jobs

Bausch and Lomb site, livingston
Bausch & Lomb makes daily disposable contact lenses

About 500 jobs are to be lost after contact lenses manufacturer Bausch & Lomb announced plans to move production from West Lothian.

The American company has entered a 90-day consultation period with staff at its factory in Livingston.

The company plans to move the work to existing sites in Ireland and the US.

Bausch & Lomb, which has been in Livingston since 1996, announced a phased withdrawal from the site over the next year and early 2011.

Gerald Ostrov, chairman and chief executive officer of Bausch & Lomb, was at the plant when local management informed employees of the news.

Strategic review

He said: "We are constantly considering a number of options to provide the necessary cash funding to enable our global growth plans.

"As such, and after an extensive strategic review, we believe that focusing our resources on just two primary contact lens manufacturing plants is critical.

"The long-term cost savings - hundreds of millions of pounds - will provide crucial funding as part of a broader global effort to reinvest in our business, including increasing professional and consumer contact lens demand worldwide."

The company said it had chosen the sites at Waterford in Ireland and Rochester in New York state after a review.

Factors in the choice included "proximity to established research and development resources, substantial total cost savings, global operational efficiencies, and future investment potential", the company said.

Mr Ostrov said the decision was "not a reflection of how our people in Livingston have performed, their professionalism, or their dedication".

Bausch & Lomb bought Livingston-based contact lens manufacturer Award in 1996, which employed about 100 people at the time.

The Livingston site manufactures SofLens daily disposable contact lenses for global sale.

Gerald Ostrov
Mr Ostrov said the decision was not a reflection on the workers

Bausch & Lomb employs more than 10,000 people worldwide.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said he was "very disappointed" that Bausch & Lomb were moving production abroad.

He said: "The Scottish Government has been in contact with the company at senior level, including with chair and chief executive Gerald Ostrov.

"A phased withdrawal from Livingston over the next 21 months allows us to continue discussions with the company."

On Saturday morning local MP Jim Devine was due to meet management at the plant to ask that some staff be offered jobs in Ireland or the United States.

Meanwhile Scottish Labour's economy & skills spokesman John Park called on the Scottish Government to do everything in its power to persuade Bausch & Lomb not to close its plant.

Devastating blow

He said: "This would be another body blow to the Scottish economy and ministers must do everything possible to try to save these jobs.

"I urge the company to show loyalty to its workforce and explore all other options before going ahead with such a drastic step."

SNP MSP for Livingston, Angela Constance, said she was "deeply saddened and shocked" by the announcement.

She said: "Unemployment in West Lothian is the highest in a decade. This is a devastating blow for the local economy and the 500 strong workforce who are highly committed, skilled and productive."

Ms Constance said she wanted to make sure that everything possible was done for the workforce.

"As closure is not imminent I want to ensure that all options other than closure have been fully explored and to establish what opportunities exist to mitigate this colossal job loss," she said.

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