Reaction to ‘devastating’ blow of Carron Phoenix closure

Manufacturing at the Carron plant will cease late next year. Picture: Michael Gillen
Manufacturing at the Carron plant will cease late next year. Picture: Michael Gillen

Workers have been left “devastated” by the announcement the Carron Phoenix plant is to close with the loss of around 200 jobs.

The Franke Group, which owns the site in Stenhouse Road, made public its plans today to shut the sink manufacturing site, along with two others in Europe, and move production to a purpose-built plant in Slovakia by the end of next year.

Just 15 jobs will be retained locally at a new logistics facility still to be established.

The GMB Scotland union has vowed to fight the closure and is calling for urgent action from politicians to save the site, which employs 211 workers.

Gary Cook, GMB Scotland officer, said: “This is another hammer blow to the Scottish economy and the workers are absolutely devastated.

“Once again Scottish workers are left pleading for a government intervention to try and save their livelihoods and skills – a depressingly familiar scenario that cannot continue unchallenged.

“At the STUC Conference in Dundee (tomorrow) our trade unions are making the case to politicians currently on the campaign trail that we desperately need a meaningful industrial strategy to buck this manufacturing decline.

“Yet at the same moment, over 200 skilled jobs are being thrown on the unemployment scrap-heap as the manufacturing casualties continue to mount.

“GMB Scotland will campaign to fight this closure but if this latest blow cannot focus the minds of our politicians on the crisis in manufacturing then I don’t know what will.”

Mr Cook said shop stewards from the Carron plant will accompany union representatives to demand a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at tomorrow’s conference.

Carron Phoenix is owned by Swiss conglomerate Franke Artemis Holdings manufacturing granite sinks. The site is historically linked with leading the Industrial Revolution when the Carron Company started it as an iron foundry, which operated globally.

It is famed for making the cannons used by Wellington at Waterloo, the Royal Mail’s famous red telephone boxes and postboxes and the iron casings which line the Clyde tunnel.

Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory, was also equipped with cannons called ‘Carronades’.

Falkirk Council Leader Councillor Craig Martin said: “This is a devastating blow to the 211 workers and their families. I am calling on the Scottish Government and Falkirk Council to do all it can find a way to keep this company on site.

“The company seems to be doing well so we need to question why they want to ship manufacturing away from Carron.”

“There has been manufacturing on this site for over 250 years and we need to find a way to keep it going. The history of making goods at Carron is incredible, from cannons to phone boxes, Falkirk would not be what it is today without it.

“It would be a travesty if by December 2016, after 257 years, the great name of Carron is confined to the history books.”

Franke operations director Bart Doornkamp said the company is facing “intense pressure” from international manufacturers in a competitive global market.

Mr Doornkamp said: “As a result, regrettably we have been left with no choice but to close our three existing facilities in Falkirk, Brunssum in Holland and Zilina in Slovakia and centralise our production on a more efficient, purpose-built greenfield site in Slovakia which will open in spring 2017.

“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.”

Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary said the union will offer support to the workforce.

He said: “Today’s news is devastating blow to the workers at Carron Phoenix, their families and the Falkirk community.

“Closure of this plant also represents another huge setback for Scottish manufacturing which has contracted for three out the last four quarters and isn’t yet close to returning to pre-recession levels of output.

“The past year has seen a succession of large closures and job losses which will have negative consequences for workers and local economies for years to come.”

Mr Doornkamp added: “We are committed to working with the unions to finalise appropriate terms for employees and, wherever possible, to agree support to help them find new jobs and training opportunities. We are confident we will reach agreement on these issues in the coming weeks.

“We are also in touch with Scottish Enterprise and the local authority to ensure all possible support is given to the workforce.”

The Falkirk plant, which was purchased by Franke in 1990, currently manufactures a range of granite sinks which will continue to be supplied to the UK market via Franke’s existing national sales office in Manchester.