Page last updated at 13:44 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 14:44 UK

Final shift at Anglesey Aluminium


Work ends at smelting company Anglesey Aluminium

Smelting operations have ended today at Anglesey Aluminium in Holyhead with the loss of nearly 400 jobs.

The owners said the site - the largest employer in north Wales - was too expensive in its present form.

But many workers are angry that the company turned down £48m from the UK and Welsh Assembly Governments to keep its business going.

A union representative said work prospects for the 390 people losing their jobs were "very bleak".

Joint owners Rio Tinto Group and Kaiser Aluminium decided to close after failing to secure a discounted energy deal, despite being offered aid.

The company, which opened 40 years ago, announced in August that it would cease smelting work, where the raw materials are heated up to create aluminium.

The plant on the outskirts of Holyhead, has required a huge amount of energy to run - it uses 12% of the total electricity used in Wales.

Its history has been closely tied in to an energy deal with the nuclear power station at Wylfa, 14 miles away.

But the station is due to be decommissioned and there had been concerted efforts to secure the aluminium plant's future.

I will be thinking I have been doing this for the last 24 years - coming out of the same place, doing the same thing
Worker Richard Williams

The UK government had offered a £48m rescue package over four years but this was rejected by the plant's owners because it was "not enough to break even".

The decision provoked anger from workers and the Unite union staged a march through Holyhead in protest at the closure earlier this month.

Worker Richard Williams, who is due to complete his final shift later, said he felt sadness not only for himself but his colleagues.

"I will be thinking I have been doing this for the last 24 years - coming out of the same place, doing the same thing," he said.

"I will be sad to see it go not only for myself but for the 400-odd other workers who are going."

Some of the people are saying they are going to have to move out of the area, homes are going to break up, they are having to move to other areas to find jobs
Jeff Evans, former shop steward

Jeff Evans, a former shop steward at the plant and a local councillor said the closure could rip the heart out of the area.

"Some of the people I have spoken to this morning are the same people I worked with here at the plant, socialised with, played football with in the 70s," he said.

"There are two sides to the story. A plant which has been wonderful for the area, providing good jobs, apprenticeships, good money, earnings that people could live with, save with.

"But then you have this sad ending to this plant.

"Some of the people are saying they are going to have to move out of the area, homes are going to break up, they are having to move to other areas to find jobs."

Albert Owen, Labour MP for the island said he could understand the anger felt by the workforce.

"They put a lot of commitment into this plant over many many years and they feel let down at the last minute," he said.

"I still believe that this plant could have carried on had they taken up the generous offer that the UK government and others made."

Anglesey AM Ieuan Wyn Jones said workers, unions and the assembly government had fought hard to secure a viable future for the plant.

"It is deeply disappointing that the company has decided to proceed with this decision to end smelting despite the offer of a £48m rescue package over four years," he said.

"The priority now must be to do everything we can to support those who have lost their jobs and to offer them all the advice and assistance they need."

Shadow energy spokesman Charles Hendry said it was a "sad day" for the workers and British business.

"Despite the knowledge that many of our power stations are coming to the end of their lives, the government has dithered in bringing forth an energy policy," he said.

Ian Ashworth who runs a newsagents in Holyhead town centre said the closure could have a knock-on effect on other businesses.

"No one really knows but you have got to anticipate it is going to knock your trade just because they are well paid jobs in a very low employment area," he said.

Some staff said their families had suffered a double blow because other relatives worked for Eaton Electric, another firm in Holyhead, which closed earlier this year with the loss of 250 jobs.

Up to 80 staff will be kept on to maintain the site and make products like aluminium sheets for cans of food.

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