The firm, owned by Japanese firm Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG), is to close a float line at its Greengate plant near the town centre. A second line has not yet reopened after a £22m refurbishment last year and the company does not expect it to start up until April, 2010 at the earliest. Last month it announced global workforce cuts of 5,800 people – about 15% of its total staff – by March, 2010.
Half of those cuts have already taken place, predominantly in China and the Philippines.
The changes are designed to ensure the company’s viability, with the target of re-establishing profit growth from 2011.
Today’s announcement is an extension of its restructuring programme in a move costing a further £20m. The economic downturn has already seen the firm have to take out capacity equivalent to two of its 16 float lines in Europe.
Cllr Brian Spencer, leader of St Helens Council, has tonight voiced his “deep concern” following the announcement by Pilkington that it is to close its UK6 float glass plant.
The company was formed in St Helens in 1826 and employed about 17,000 people in the town less than 40 years ago.
Now the glassmaker employs less than 1,400 people across its five Merseyside sites. Cllr Spencer said: “I am extremely concerned about the long term impact this will have on the future of the manufacture of sheet glass in the borough. The sheet glass process has been part of our heritage for over a century.”
The company said it will be opening an immediate voluntary redundancy package to mitigate the impact of compulsory redundancies. Last month it announced it is to close its Automotive Value Added operation, in St Helens, with the loss of 11 jobs.
The firm said an “unprecedented” drop in demand and a reduction in future orders meant there was insufficient work to keep the operation busy.
The site had been operating on a short-time working basis in recent months, but the severe downturn in new car sales has hit the glassmaker’s automotive division badly, resulting in “very high levels of over-capacity” across the group.
NSG has also taken a number of steps at other automotive plants, including announcing closures of divisions in Austria, Finland and Germany.
This week it has also said it is to mothball its Venice plant.