Workers braced for 800 Scottish NEC jobs to go

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The Independent Online

Technology workers in Silicon Glen – Scotland's hi-tech belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow – were braced last night for the loss of up to 800 jobs, about half the workforce at a semiconductor plant owned by NEC, the Japanese electronics giant.

Though the company would not confirm the redundancies, officials in Tokyo said job cuts at the plant in Livingston, West Lothian, were under consideration as it restructures amid the prolonged slump in the global chip market. The plant makes Dram chips used in mobile phones and laptop PCs, products for which demand has collapsed since late last year.

Daniel Mathieson, an NEC official, said: "Two months ago we cut staff in the US, and now we're examining how to restructure the UK, as well as China and other areas. Asked if this could include lay-offs in Livingston, he added: "We can't rule it out."

In April, Motorola, the US chip and telecoms equipment maker, announced that it would close its Scottish mobile phone manufacturing plant in nearby Bathgate, with the elimination of 3,200 jobs. NEC has invested more than £1bn in Livingston since 1981, including £80m in 2000 to develop low-powered chips for mobile handsets.

Details of NEC's restructuring for individual factories are due later this month. In April, NEC said it would halt the Scottish plant's production of Dram chips by March 2003 and shift output to more profitable products but it added that no redundancies were planned.

Reports in the Japanese press yesterday said NEC had decided to phase out Dram production a year earlier than planned and would negotiate lay-offs with unions. The reports said NEC had not decided how many to lay off.