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Doors close on last 200 Candy staff; Production ends at factory after 50 years.

Byline: Sam Lister

STAFFat a major manufacturing company in Wirral turned up to work yesterday to collect their final pay cheques.

Almost 200 workers lost their jobs as the Candy factory in Bromborough closed its doors, marking the end of 50 years of white goods manufacturing on the site.

The final fridge rolled off the production lines on Thursday and manufacturing will now be shifted to China. Operations work will move to the company's base in the Czech Republic.

The closure has been blamed on the strength of the pound against the euro and the struggle to compete in the market place against cheap imports.

The company has insisted managers, employees and unions had worked together to maximise investment, productivity and improvements, but said production was ``uneconomic and inviable''.

Alberton Bertali,executive vice-chairman and former managing director of the Wirral site, said: ``Efficiency improvements have been made in recent years, but sadly, many other external pressures have led the company to come to this decision.''

Candy is based at Monza in Italy and is the fourth largest manufacturer of white goods in Europe, with more than 7,700 employees.

It began production at the Bromborough site in 1980 after taking over from Kelvinator.

But its name became forever etched in the minds of football fans on Merseyside when it became the shirt sponsor for Liverpool FC.

At one time it had a workforce of more than 600.

Workers believed their future was secure when the firm invested over pounds 4.5m in the Bromborough site in the late 1990s. The company also reduced costs by using non-UK suppliers for raw materials.

But competitive pressures have ultimately forced Candy out of the market.

At its peak more than 5,000 fridges and freezers rolled off the production lines every week. In recent times that has dropped to 2,800. About half the workforce have lined up new jobs.

The loss of a major employer is seen as a blow to the borough. WirralSouthMP Ben Chapman said: ``Candy is a well-known name and the factory has been in existence for along time.

``I understand that despite measures the company has taken and the contribution by staff,competitive factors have worked against the company.

``Its closure will dealablow to the localeconomy.''

Time runs out for most efficient operation in the companyFOR 17 years ColinHawksford,53, of Birkenhead, was a maintenance engineer for Candy.

After working in engineering since leaving school he now has to return to the job market.

Although the closure of the factory has rocked him and his colleagues he remains optimistic about the future.

He said: ``It has been a very sad day. Emotions have run high and there have been a lot of tears shed.

``What makes it so disappointing is that we are the most efficient factory in the company. We have done absolutely everything we can to make this a successful site. The unions, workers and bosses have worked together to spot areas that were inefficient and rectify them.

``Unfortunately it was not enough, we just could not compete with cheap imports.

``I haven't found another job yet. I'veno idea what I will do but I'm staying positive. It has been a blow for all the workers, this place has been a big part of our lives,but we all have to look to the future now and move on.

``It's also a sad day for the manufacturing industry. This country was built on manufacturing and this is yet another sign of how the Government is failing to support industry.

``My fondest memory of my time there is the people,but now we will all have to go our separate ways.''

CAPTION(S):

RUSH HOUR: When sponsors Candy -and Liverpool's finest -were in their prime,in 1989; SAD: Colin Hawksford
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 2, 2003
Words:633
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