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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Talks sought as 800 jobs face axe
Sony workers

The day after cuts of more than 800 staff were announced at two factories in Bridgend, south Wales, unions are seeking urgent talks with management.

On Wednesday, Japanese electronics giant Sony announced 650 job cuts as it closes its Bridgend plant and scales down production at its Pencoed site.

The losses were blamed on the downturn in demand for traditional televisions.

American firm Wrigley's also said it was shutting the Altoids sweet factory in the town, with the loss of 173 jobs.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has agreed to meet three south Wales MPs, Madeline Moon, Huw Irranca Davies and John Smith, to discuss help for Bridgend following the double blow.

At Sony, a total of 400 jobs will go at its main factory in Bridgend by March 2006. Another 250 will be lost at the Pencoed assembly plant, leaving 300 jobs.

SONY IN WALES
Sony production started in Bridgend in 1974; the Pencoed plant opened in 1992.
At one time the plants employed more than 4,000
In Oct 2000, 400 job losses were announced - with the strong pound and competition blamed. More followed in recent years.
The Queen on a visit praised the firm's "commendable commitment" to the workforce
At one time, 60 Japanese firms employed 20,000 people in Wales

In a statement on Wednesday, the company said the decision had been made "with regret" and despite "excellent performance" at the two plants.

Worker Graham Andrews, 53, said it would be difficult to find new work locally.

"I have been through, in my life unfortunately, about three redundancies and might have to change my direction in life," he said.

"I think we are all hoping that perhaps someone will pull something out of the bag."

His wife Denise, who works as a beauty therapist, said she was worried that all the job cuts in one area would impact on her as well.

"I work in the leisure industry and when people are short of money, it is my type of stuff that goes from their budget," she said.

Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon said workers had only heard the news when it was broadcast on the radio.

"It is a dark day for Bridgend. What we have got to do is work to make sure there is some light at the end of that darkness," she said.

She said there was a need for a big new company to move onto the Sony site, and she would be asking Mr Blair to make sure that help for the workers would be well co-ordinated.

"What we have got to make sure is something positive comes out of this awful experience."

'Gutted'

Sony union leaders said they were concerned about the future of the plants in January, when 300 jobs were cut.

However, the cuts at Wrigley's, which are due to take place over the next six to nine months, appear to have come as more of a shock.

The US-based firm bought the former Kraft factory in May 2005 and workers there said they thought it was set for expansion.

Wrigley's plant
Wrigley's took over the plant in May 2005

Worker Denise Price, who has worked at the plant for 19 years, said the 173 losses were "terrible".

"We knew about being taken over before Christmas - we thought Wrigleys were going to come in here and start up," she said.

"We have just bought new machinery in worth millions of pounds."

Her son Gareth, who has worked there for nearly 13 years, said everyone at the plant was "gutted".

Bridgend Council is to set up a response team and described the announcement as "a very sad one for Bridgend and for south Wales generally".

Welsh Minister for Economic Development Andrew Davies said as well as heading a rapid response team, politicians would work closely with the firm "at the highest levels" to develop further opportunities for the Pencoed site.


SEE ALSO:
Sony sheds 300 factory jobs
20 Jan 05 |  Wales
Wales avoids Sony job losses
28 Oct 03 |  Business
Sony denies plasma TV withdrawal
20 Dec 04 |  Business


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