‘We won’t let them pull the plug on Carron Phoenix’

The historic Grahamston Gate, right, which sits outside the Carron Phoenix plant symbolises the history of work at the site dating back to 1759. Picture: Michael Gillen
The historic Grahamston Gate, right, which sits outside the Carron Phoenix plant symbolises the history of work at the site dating back to 1759. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Devastated Carron Phoenix workers have been told there will be a defiant fight to save the 200 jobs at the under-threat plant.

Unions and politicians have pledged to put forward proposals in a bid to make the firm’s owner – Swiss conglomerate Franke Artemis Holdings – reverse its decision to shut the site and move manufacturing to Slovakia by the end of next year.

There are 211 employees and, under Franke’s plans, just 15 will be retained in Falkirk at a logistics facility still to be established.

Workers said it was a “bolt from the blue” after being told last Thursday of a planned meeting with management on Monday when the announcement was made.

One employee, who asked not to be named, has worked there for over 20 years. He said: “We didn’t expect anything this drastic, it was a bolt from the blue. There wasn’t even any rumours this could happen. There are generations of families who work here, some for over 30 years. It’s devastating.

“The thing is there are plenty of orders, we had to knock orders back a month to May because we couldn’t cope with the demand.

“Apparently they have installed a robot to do the work in Slovakia that should have been up and running in December but they’ve had nothing but problems with it.

“It will have a big impact, not just on us but businesses in this community.”

Another long-term employee said: “I’m a bit older now so I won’t just walk into another job and I’ll still have a mortgage to pay next year.”

Franke is closing two other sites in Brunssum in Holland and Zilina in Slovakia. Operations director Bart Doornkamp said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We examined in great detail the option of upgrading the Falkirk plant but the high level of investment that would have been required made the business case simply unsustainable.

“Consultation with the trade unions is a priority to ensure that we undertake an orderly, phased closure of the plant by December 2017. Dependent on those discussions, we are hopeful that there will be no redundancies before the start of next year.”

The GMB union took representatives of the workforce to the STUC Annual Congress in Dundee on Tuesday where they met with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to discuss intervention from the Scottish Government.

The union highlighted the company’s profitable performance, a full order book and strong exports to European and Chinese markets for Carron’s high-quality granite sink products and demanded support for the manufacturing industry.

Gary Cook, GMB regional officer, said: “The campaign to save these jobs starts without delay and GMB will do everything to defend the livelihoods of our members, but there is no doubt that the wider and ongoing decline of Scottish manufacturing cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “In the same way as we did for steel, we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to secure a future for the Carron site and protect the jobs that depend on it.”

Falkirk Council is also looking at ways to save the local jobs. Council leader Councillor Craig Martin said: “I have set up a meeting with government, council and trade union officials for early next week to look at ways we can keep these jobs in Falkirk.

“We have 18 months to find a way to keep these good quality manufacturing jobs which we want more of in Falkirk.”