Fresh blows to manufacturing

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The Independent Online
THE MANUFACTURING industry was dealt a series of fresh blows yesterday with the confirmation of nearly 1,000 job losses at two Scottish electronics plants and a warning that more cutbacks are on the way at Rover.

Viasystems of the US was attacked by local MPs for "betrayal of the workforce" after announcing that its computer component factories in Galashiels and Selkirk in the Scottish borders are to close with 950 job losses.

Meanwhile, BMW, the parent company of Rover, warned of more cutbacks following the 1,500 job losses announced in July. Speaking on the opening day of the Paris Motor Show, BMW's chairman, Bernd Pischetsrieder, said further action would have to be taken if the current downturn continued and the pound remained strong.

"What they [the cutbacks] will be is being discussed with workers and unions, but I expect it will go beyond what we have already announced," said Mr Pischestsrieder.

BMW has already put the Longbridge plant on a four-day week and announced plans to switch pounds 1bn worth of component purchasing abroad.

Hepworth, the maker of Glow-Worm boilers, added to the gloom by warning of a further 200 redundancies on top of the 500 jobs it has already shed in the UK and continental Europe in the past year.

There are fears that Rover may suffer losses of up to pounds 500m this year because of the strong pound, but a spokesman rebuffed suggestions that this could threaten BMW's investment programme for Rover, currently pounds 600m a year.

The Viasystems closures were attacked by the Scottish Industry Minister Gus MacDonald who said the company had made up its mind to shut the plants and was not interested in offers of assistance.

Liberal Democrat MPs for the Borders region, Archy Kirkwood and Michael Moore, said the workforce had been cheated and called for a public inquiry into funding made available for Viasystems elsewhere in the UK. It also owns a plant in the north-east.

The Hepworth job losses will reduce the workforce by 10 per cent to about 6,300 people. More than 60 per cent of Hepworth's staff work in the UK, with the rest in continental Europe. The redundancies are part of the group's efforts to buck tough market conditions by cutting costs and improving efficiencies.

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