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True men of mettle.

Byline: By Dave Black

Loyal workers yesterday bade an emotional farewell to a seaside iron foundry where some of them have been employed for almost 30 years.

Workers at the 157-job Vald Birn UK plant in Cambois, Northumberland, completed their final shift after soaring energy costs and cheap foreign competition forced its closure.

The foundry has been a key employer since it opened in 1977 ( built on the site of the village's colliery, which closed in 1968.

Workers went home for the last time clutching plaques made from the last metal poured at the plant, commemorating both the foundry and Cambois pit.

The closure was announced in January but despite knowing that their jobs were doomed, the employees have put in extra efforts to ensure that customers' needs were met.

Bosses at the Danish-owned company have blamed a 100pc rise in electricity costs for the closure.

They had pumped in millions, trying to keep it open but they had failed to sell it as a going concern.

Vald Birn UK made castings for the automotive, rail and other industries but the plug was pulled on the plant after its electricity bill rose in 16 months from pounds 1.2m to pounds 2.4m.

Trevor Davison, 38, who has worked there for 19 years and is the Amicus union shop steward, said: "This has been a sad and emotional time for everyone here.

"The lads are very resilient and loyal and our workload has actually increased since the closure was announced in January, so that supplies could be stockpiled for our customers.

"Despite what has been hanging over them, the guys have been tremendous in working extra hours and putting in extra effort. I can't praise them highly enough.

"Absenteeism is virtually non-existent and today's closure is a crying shame for them.

"But our main competitors in Europe are paying 60pc less for their electricity and no-one seems to have been interested in the problem."

Wayne Sample, 46, from Bedlington, said: "I watched this foundry being built and have worked here for 28 years, so this is a very sad day for me.

"The foundry has been good to us over the years but now we are going to have to turn our hands to anything that is available."

Vald Birn UK interim managing director Mel Speirs said: "The workforce has been excellent and this is a sad day for everyone. The longest serving worker has been here 29 years and I hope that everyone who has not yet found a new job does so as soon as possible."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2006
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