ST HELENS shuddered from another economic body blow today after it was announced Pilkington is shedding 150 jobs in a move that will see one of its local float lines mothballed and production ceased at its solar glass cutting operation.
The glassmaker’s parent firm, Nippon Sheet Glass Group, intends stopping manufacturing on the UK6 Float line at the Greengate site and the solar cutting operation at the Cowley Hill site by the end of April 2012.
A lower than expected demand for solar power products in export markets is at the root of the glass giant’s decision, while UK6 is being mothballed a year sooner than had been scheduled.
David Pinder, managing director Pilkington’s Building UK, told the Star the news would not affect construction of a new £33m glass facility at Cowley Hill – which is supported by £5m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
The line, with a more efficient production method, will enable Pilks to make glass which is more competitive within the UK and European market, is set to create more than 260 positions.
However, many of those roles are expected to be filled from within the existing workforce.
Mr Pinder suggested the amount of jobs being shed at Cowley Hill, where about 100 workers on the solar panel cutting operation are on temporary contracts, would have been “a lot worse” had it not been for the investment in the new site, which was confirmed when Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited St Helens in December.
A NSG statement read: “This will result in a reduction of 150 roles across the two sites, both based in St Helens. Management and trade unions will start consultation on how to achieve this reduction.
“The Group has experienced a reduction in many of its core markets, including the European building products market.
“The global market for solar energy glass has also worsened significantly during the third quarter.
“While the longer-term prospects for these markets remain positive, the Group does not expect to see an early recovery within the next financial year.
“Local trade unions have been briefed today and a series of employee briefings, planned.”
Speaking to the Star during his visit to St Helens in December, Clegg said: “We can’t carry on in the North West hoping that we are going to get more handouts from Whitehall to create jobs that are here today, gone tomorrow.
“We need private sector jobs in factories like this, which last for years.”
Pilks employs more than 1,000 people in St Helens.
Further reaction to follow