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Glass factory closure spells end of car industry

Glass factory proposed closure spells end of car industry

Today’s announcement of the possible closure of the Pilkington automotive glass factory in Lower Hutt is a blow to the workers and the region, says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.

“It’s virtually the end of the automotive industry which powered the Hutt Valley for decades,” said the union’s Southern region assistant secretary, Steve Milne.

British-based company Pilkington Group today announced that the factory could close in September, with the loss of 130 jobs.

The company makes automotive glass products, such as car windscreens.

Mr Milne said that managers and workers had done an excellent job of switching to export production after the collapse of the New Zealand car industry in 1998.

“They’ve kept going for more than four years by exporting mainly to the United States and European markets, but the high New Zealand dollar is crippling the operation,” he said.

An estimated 20,000 jobs were lost when the National Government removed tariffs on imported cars before other countries did the same, exposing our car industry to unfair competition from other countries. Within a year, all car manufacturing plants in New Zealand closed, with plants producing automotive parts close behind them.

Mr Milne said that the EPMU and other site unions would work with the company in an effort to save the factory and the jobs.

The union has 35 members at the Lower Hutt factory, mainly in the trades area. Mr Milne expects the tradespeople to be able to find work quite quickly if the factory closes, but said that the production staff had highly specialised skills which might make it harder for them to find jobs within the automotive glass industry..

Site delegate Barry Cooper said that staff were quiet when they heard the news this afternoon, and were trying to come to terms with it.

“It wasn’t entirely unexpected, given the fact that we’re producing for an industry on the other side of the world, but it was still a shock to hear it,” he said.

It is understood that the Pilkington manufacturing plant in Auckland’s Mt Wellington will not be affected by the closure.

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