Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 16:56 UK

Workers hold talks over 200 jobs

Air Products factory, Acrefair
The plant has operated at Acrefair for almost 60 years

Staff at a factory which makes gas-related products have held urgent talks after it emerged 200 workers could lose their jobs.

Air Products proposes closing its plant at Acrefair, near Wrexham, blaming the economic downturn and the fact many of its clients are now Asian-based.

The company said a 90-day consultation process was under way.

The Unite union said there was "anger" at the plans, as Acrefair employees had helped set up a plant in China.

The plant, which opened in 1950, employs 140 craftsmen and 50 in management and administration.

Company managers told staff and union officials on Thursday that costs could be cut by moving production from Acrefair to China.

Earlier, Laurence O'Donnell, general manager at Acrefair, blamed the global economic crisis, adding: "More and more we're finding that our customer base is really moving to the east, China in particular."

Graham Rogers, of the Unite Union, said feelings were running high because some employees at Acrefair had travelled to China to set up a plant there.

He said: "You can imagine the resent and the anger and the hurt that was in the canteen this morning."

Further meetings between staff, unions and management are planned next Tuesday.

'Shock'

As staff prepared to meet management on Thursday, one worker said: "Most people have spent their lives here and it's come as a shock."

Another said: "I'm in my 60s. I do feel for the young lads. There's not much work in the area, so what they are going to do I don't know."

Air Products supplies gas and related equipment to a wide range of industries.

It describes itself as the UK's leading provider of home oxygen, serving more than 50,000 patients, but its healthcare services would not be affected by the proposals.

Other areas include gases for balloons, rubber and plastic materials, as well as petrochemicals and refining.

The proposals only affect the Acrefair plant, which manufactures and exports industrial gases and equipment around the world.

Its products include equipment for air separation, natural gas liquefaction and hydrogen purification.



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