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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 January 2007, 14:05 GMT
Workers' co-op plan for Burberry
Burberry workers
Burberry workers say production should remain in the UK
Plans are being drawn up to try to save the jobs of 50 workers at the closing Burberry factory in the Rhondda.

Some workers may get help to form a co-operative clothing business when the Treorchy plant shuts next month with the loss of over 300 jobs.

The Welsh Assembly Government is in talks about the co-operative with Burberry, the GMB union, and others.

But Rhondda AM Leighton Andrews urged caution over its viability, and said the campaign to save the plant went on.

Don't forget, this is just one option that's being considered at the moment
Adrian Clarke, Welsh Clothing and Textile Association

The Politics Show on BBC Wales has discovered that a number of interested parties are exploring the possibility, including the Welsh Clothing and Textile Association (WCTA), which first put the idea forward.

The co-operative would produce samples of garments for manufacturers to check products before commissioning large runs elsewhere.

Adrian Clarke of the WCTA said: "We would be looking at the idea of a unit of around about 50 people but obviously we'd be looking to explore that further.

"If there's the need or demand that could find enough work for more than 50 then obviously we'll explore that further again."

The WCTA said it believed the plan could work, and could also lead to smaller units being opened at other locations.

Mr Clarke said: "Don't forget, this is just one option that's being considered at the moment.

"Through our contacts as well there are interests coming in to safeguard other jobs further on. But we'll have to wait and see how that develops."

Burberry workers protesting at a London store
I have no idea if this proposal is viable or how many jobs it could sustain
Leighton Andrews AM

However, AM Leighton Andrews stressed that the fight to save the plant was still continuing.

He said a workers' co-op would also depend on "a viable business plan, and whether Burberry is prepared to give support to the idea through business and marketing support, redundant machinery and continued orders. "

Mr Andrews said he had been approached by designers interested in using the workers' skills "but I have no idea if this proposal is viable or how many jobs it could sustain."

'Iconic brand'

Burberry, which has described the Treorchy factory as not commercially viable, declined to comment on the proposal.

A series of celebrity names, including actors Ioan Gruffudd - who advertises Burberry - Rhys Ifans and Emma Thompson have urged the company to keep the plant open. There have also been pickets at London Burberry stores.

The firm plans to move production abroad of the polo shirts made in Treorchy.

It has also been criticised by Wales and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, who said such an "iconic British brand" should not be made abroad.

Burberry has emphasised, however, that it has no plans to leave the UK, and has offered Rhondda workers jobs at its plant in Yorkshire.

Burberry has said it was "proud to retain a strong manufacturing capability in the UK. We make our iconic trench coats in Yorkshire and have no plans to change this."

Company executives are also due to be questioned by MPs on the Welsh affairs select committee about the decision as part of an investigation into globalisation.

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