Helens, Merseyside. Shift patterns on the two remaining lines, which make glass sidelights for cars and trucks, will also change, resulting in some job losses on those operations. The moves are designed to reduce capacity and improve the site's manufacturing efficiency.
The decision to close the line follows a thorough review of Pilkington's European automotive glass capacity against expected industry demand for automotive glass through to 2003 and beyond. Current capacity far exceeds demand, with further reductions in demand expected in the near future.
The Eccleston site, which makes toughened automotive glass backlights and sidelights for the European car industry, currently has 251 employees. The closure of the RH3 automotive backlight line during the first quarter of 2002, together with the shift changes, will result in the loss of 80 jobs across all employee groups on the site.
The aim is to ensure that Eccleston retains the essential skills required to service its existing and future customers and to meet increased demand quickly, should it return in the future. Pilkington has no plans to close the Eccleston plant, the cost base and performance targets of which are comparable with other Pilkington Automotive sites across Europe.
Some existing production will transfer to other backlight lines at Pilkington Automotive sites in Italy and Germany, with some sidelight production from other Pilkington plants in Europe being transferred to Eccleston.
In order to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies, the company intends to seek volunteers in the first instance. The company is currently in consultation with the unions represented at the site (the GMB, Apex and AEEU). Opportunities for placements in other Pilkington sites are being explored and a specialist employment agency will be setting up a "Job Shop" on the Eccleston site to identify potential external employment opportunities and to assist employees with job search activities.