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Dewhirst to shut Fishguard
Feature: 3/8/2002



Union leaders representing 168 workers made redundant by Dewhirst at Fishguard, in west Wales, have been meeting with company bosses to discuss severance packages after they were told they would be losing their jobs (director-e News, Friday 30 August).

The Dewhirst factory at Fishguard.
The Dewhirst factory at Fishguard.


The firm, which makes clothes for Marks & Spencer, once boasted five plants in Wales, but has confirmed it was to close its last remaining factory. Staff were told it would shut following a 90-day consultation period.

This is the latest in a long line of closures for the manufacturer, which has been badly affected by the withdrawal of orders from Marks & Spencer. The new job losses bring the total for Dewhirst in Wales to around 1,400.

In a statement the company said it regretted the move. It said that continued consumer pressure on prices had affected profitability.

Emily Thomas, from the GMB union, said the union would be looking for meetings with the Welsh Assembly to assist the workers. "We will spend the 90-day consultation period trying to work out every way for them to keep their jobs or get trained for other jobs - they're a highly skilled workforce", she said.

Worker uniforms

The GMB wants manufacturers and the government to develop strategies to save jobs in the sector, including getting contracts for public sector worker uniforms such as nurses, emergency and military staff.

"British firms aren't winning these contracts, but we have the skills and it would save a lot of jobs", added Emily Thomas.

Welsh Assembly economic development minister Andrew Davies said he was "bitterly disappointed" by the decision to close the factory.

"Dewhirst has made a strategic decision to withdraw from manufacturing in Wales in a move to increase profits", he said. "Regrettably, they have kept us in the dark about their plans and have given us very late notice of their announcement.

"The significantly lower wages they pay workers abroad means that by re-locating they can achieve higher profit margins for the company", he added.

Closure programme

Dewhirst began closing its factories in Wales back in 1998. In the middle of August, the Dewhirst plant at Fforestfach in Swansea, closed with the loss of 435 jobs. Another 325 jobs are to go at the Dewhirst factory in Cardigan in November.

The first Dewhirst factory to close was at Ystalyfera in Swansea when 300 jobs were lost in 1998. And last year 165 jobs went when the plant at Lampeter was shut down.

Workers at the Fishguard plant were told that the company had decided against moving their cutting operation from the closing Cardigan factory around 15 miles away. Dewhirst in Fishguard makes polyester ladies' trousers for Marks and Spencer.

A consultation period started two weeks ago, when the factory re-opened after its annual leave.

There will still be around 200 Dewhirst administration and technical staff left in Wales, but they will not be involved in making clothes.

Dewhirst's own prospects have long been closely linked to those of Marks & Spencer, which has experienced a turbulent period in the past two years. In 2000, the company also closed two plants on Teesside and Stoke-on-Trent in England.
Author: John Gibbon
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