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1966: ICI announces big nylon job losses
Britain's largest manufacturing company Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) is cutting 1,000 staff at its nylon-fibre producing factories.

Six hundred jobs will go at Doncaster, 200 at Gloucester and 250 at Pontypool in Monmouthshire. About half the staff will be given notice on Friday - the other half will be told a week later.

The company has blamed the government's tough economic measures for a fall in demand for nylon. Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced a pay and price freeze last month in an attempt to control runaway inflation.

A statement issued by ICI said: "Economic conditions are unlikely to improve for some time and further, the tax changes and the various deflationary measures are beginning to be felt and will subject industry and commerce to a period of considerable financial stringency."

The redundancies come as a surprise after the company said last year it wanted to take on 2,200 extra staff to cope with an expected growth in demand for nylon.

It means many of the staff being laid off will not qualify for severance pay - but they will be given a week's wages - about 15 to 18 for someone who has been employed six months.

The union representing nylon workers, the Transport and General Workers, says it has not been consulted about the reductions.

Ron Mathias, South Wales regional organiser, said: "It is the old story of areas like South Wales, the North-East and Scotland being hit first of all by a government measure.

"Already there is a scarcity of skilled men and if, as usually happens, some of the workers move away to the Midlands it could put us in a worse position," he said.

ICI still makes more nylon than all the other British producers put together - but it is facing growing competition from Courtaulds, British Enkalon and Chemstrand. In addition, there are new manmade fibres coming onto the market with a wide range of uses from clothing to industry.

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Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson ordered a wage and prices freeze last month


In Context
Emergency talks between management and unions followed but ICI pressed ahead with the cuts.

Speculation in the newspaper business pages was that ICI had misread the economy and gone ahead with big capital investment in new machinery - aimed at cutting production costs long term - when all the signs were profits were about to be hit in the short term.

The government's pay and price freeze failed to halt inflation. In November 1967, the government was forced to devalue the pound and tighten the credit squeeze by raising borrowing rates and taxes.

Nylon became less popular as a fabric and it was not until 1983 when it was re-designed and launched as Tactel that it became fashionable again.

The Tactel brand became so successful it was a major attraction for the American giant DuPont which bought out the ICI Fibres business in 1992.

ICI now employs more than 36,000 people worldwide. Its main products include paints, food and fragrances.

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