Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Sunday, 23 November 2008

Manufacturing crisis talks urged

Bosch said hundreds of jobs are threatened at its Miskin plant

Calls for an urgent summit to be held over the current crisis in Welsh manufacturing have been made to the assembly government.

Huw Lewis, Labour AM, has written to the deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones to ask for an emergency meeting of the Welsh Manufacturer's Forum.

It follows the recent announcement of several hundred jobs at threat at the Bosch and Hoover plants.

The assembly government said it working closely with the sector.

Hoover Candy, which makes washing machines and tumble dryers in Merthyr Tydfil, is reviewing its 337 manufacturing jobs there while Bosch in Miskin, near Llantrisant, said 250 jobs were at risk at its car parts factory.

Mr Lewis said: "Following on from the announcements at Hoover and Bosch and the pressures being felt by the automotive sector in Wales, it would seem prudent to have an emergency summit to look at a joint response to the manufacturing crisis.

Hoover factory at Merthyr Tydfil
The Hoover factory has been a Merthyr fixture for decades

"I welcomed the speed at which the two large economic summits were organised by the assembly and partners - but the pressures being felt by manufacturers are distinct and as such I think they need a distinct response."

In his letter, Mr Lewis, who is the AM for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, also said there should be a re-prioritisation of European funding and assembly government support to manufacturing to cope with the recent downturn.

"In some threatened companies in Wales you have this crazy situation where once people go out of work, the government will spring into action and spend millions on re-training.

"But for a fraction of the price, you could maintain employment - spending on training and funding research & development projects - allowing companies to hang on to their skilled workforce and be primed for an upturn in the market.

"I hope that we can re-prioritise how we are spending European Convergence Funding to address this issue, but due to the pressures being felt by companies across Wales, this will need to happen sooner rather than later."

A spokesman said: "The Welsh Assembly Government fully recognises the impact the economic downturn is having on the manufacturing industry and has been working closely with the sector in order to listen and respond to their concerns."

He added that an expansion of its skills training programmes was underway and a further programme could be launched to help firms retain skilled employees.

"We are also working through our wholly owned merchant bank, Finance Wales to provide our small and medium sized enterprises with access to investment capital and hope to shortly announce an additional 150m fund to provide capital for investment," he said.

"The Structural Funds programmes have been developed to target support directly relevant to the needs of Wales and are already heavily focused on creating sustainable jobs and growth in Wales.

"As we said during the last Economic Summit we are already in discussion with the European Commission to address the scope for flexibility within the financial arrangements for the 2007-2013 programmes to address the challenges of the current economic climate," he said.

He said the First Minister and Deputy First Minister had met with trade unions to discuss specific issues and said the assembly government would "continue to take swift action to support businesses in Wales during this difficult economic period."

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