Industry to lay off 500 more staff

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The Independent Online
A FRESH wave of redundancies was announced yesterday with more than 500 jobs cut by four companies across the country.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats renewed attacks on the Government, arguing that the job losses revealed flaws in its economic policy.

Derek Foster, Labour chairman of the House of Commons Employment Select Committee, said the Government should help the country's industrial heartlands.

A Downing Street spokes-man said the Prime Minister had nothing to add to his message earlier this week that the UK could not be sheltered from the "twists and turns" of global economic forces.

Rosyth Dockyard in Fife was hardest hit, shedding 216 workers. Its owners, Babcock Rosyth Defence, said the cuts were needed to increase the competitiveness of the yard which does naval and commercial work.

The Fii footwear firm announced 130 jobs would go at its plant in Stafford, Staffordshire. The site makes ladies' footwear uppers but the company said changes in demand meant the operation was no longer viable.

British Steel said 112 redundancies would follow the closure of a mill in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

A spokesman said: "The introduction of radical changes in working practices and significant cost reductions have failed to stem continuing losses caused by the adverse effects of an over-strong pound and the disruption to prices resulting from the Asian economic crisis."

Unions and workers at the plant were dismayed by the news. Les Wright, of the Iron & Steel Trades Confederation (ISTC), said: "This has been a profitable plant for years and I think British Steel have taken a very short-sighted view."

In another blow, chemicals firm DuPont said it was cutting 70 jobs at its plant in Brockworth, Gloucestershire.

The Conservative leader, William Hague, said: "This is a worrying sense of the economic problems that the country now faces. It is now for the Government to change its course."

DuPont blamed the economic turmoil in the Far East.