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Rhodri's pledge; Minister vows to help save 100 jobs lost as factory shuts.

Byline: ERYL CRUMP and TOM BODDEN

FIRST Minister Rhodri Morgan last night stepped in to try to save Anglesey from a devastating jobs blow.

Up to 100 specialist chemical jobs are set to go after Great Lakes Chemical Corporation announced it planned to close its Amlwch plant as early as Christmas.

The company,formerly known as the Octel works,has given workers three-months' notice. Bosses hope the plant, which extracts bromine from seawater,may be taken over during the 90-day consultation period. But workers remain doubtful.

Mr Morgan told AMs: ``We need to send a message from this Assembly that we will do everything we can to save these jobs,'' Economic Minister Andrew Davies is to meet the chemical company owners,Great Lakes, to discuss the closure plans.

He will also raise the issue of the possible repayment of regional aid, which the company received from the Assembly two years ago.

``We want to see what has led to the closure and what can be done to reverse the decision which could be a very difficult decision for the future of north east Anglesey,''Mr Morgan said.

Workers, who said they were ``shocked but not surprised'' at the news,believe no one will be interested in the plant and they will soon be looking for work elsewhere.

Council leaders said the job losses were the equivalent of steel plant closures in South Wales.

Economic Development portfolio holder Gareth Winston Roberts said: ``The closure of Great Lakes would represent a devastating blow to the economy for the whole island,but in particular the town of Amlwch which depends so much upon the plant and the jobs it has provided for many local men and women.

``The plant has provided an economic backbone for the town for many years and many local families depend on the good paid jobs there. Its closure and loss of 100 jobs would have the same devastating impact here as the loss of hundreds of steel jobs in the South Wales valleys,'' said Coun Roberts.

``I would therefore expect to see a significant level of support from the Welsh Assembly.''

Workers were told they were being given three months' notice at a special meeting at the plant yesterday morning. Stores manager Maldwyn Lloyd,55, said: ``We are all very sad but we have realised for the past few months that the business hasn't been doing well.

``I've been here for 16 years and we've done much to improve production and find new markets. There's not much more we can do.''

Finance officer Brenda Siswick said the workforce were ``devastated''.

``There's not much work around here and the skills the workers have aren't transferable.

``We're in for an uncertain time between now and Christmas,'' she said.

Site manager Brian Macconnachie said the company would begin the consultation process with employees, unions and other agencies immediately. He said: ``These steps are being taken after a careful review of operational costs,increased competitive pressures and market conditions.''

The plant,opened nearly 50 years ago,faces stiff competition from two plans sited on the Dead Sea.

Two weeks ago Great Lakes Chemical Corporation announced it had entered into a long-term strategic sourcing agreement from Dead Sea Bromine Ltd in Israel.

Mr Macconnachie said bromine was present in sea water off Amlwch at only 65 parts per million.

``In the Dead Sea it is present at 14,000 parts per million so the difference is clear.

``Our employees have worked hard over the years to try to make the plant as efficient and productive as possible,'' saidMr Macconnachie. ``Despite our efforts, the Amlwch site remains uncompetitive.''

Plaid Cymru assembly member Ieuan Wyn Jones said the community would be ``stunned and shocked'' by the possible loss of the company.

Mr Jones said such good quality jobs would be very difficult to replace, and called on the Welsh Assembly to set up a task force to see whether the jobs could be saved.

He said: ``If that is not possible, then the task force must be given resources to look for alternative employment and to bring much needed investment to the area.''

Mr Jones is returning early from the Assembly this week to begin discussions on the island with the first meeting scheduled to take place at the plant today.

Ynys Mon MP Albert Owen said: ``This is a huge blow to the area. My main concern is for the workforce who have been loyal and resilient through difficult periods over the years.''

Council officers will also make urgent representations to the Welsh Assembly.

Mr Macconnachie added workers would be considered for a limited number of positions at another of the company's sites.

The company also announced the closure of another plant in Newton Aycliffe in County Durham yesterday with the loss of around 80 jobs.

Another site owned by Great Lakes Chemicals is a pharmaceutical facility at Holywell.

The company employs 85 people at the former Palmer Research site.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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