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250 UK jobs at risk due to American intervention

250 UK jobs at risk due to American intervention

Bridgwater cellophane factory may close

Government incentives in the USA to keep a loss making factory in Kansas open are responsible for the possible closure of the Innovia cellophane factory in Bridgwater according to detailed press reports from America. The T&G, which represents many of the 250 workers in the south west whose jobs are at risk, said this looked like blatant bribery by US authorities. Tony Woodley, the T&G General Secretary said it was time the UK government took action. "If it's good enough for American authorities to back their companies, it must be good enough for us," he said. "Our government should level this playing field and back our people."

Peter Booth, T&G national organiser for manufacturing, has already written to the Department of Trade and Industry Secretary of State Patricia Hewitt to demand UK government action in the face of this scandal. "It is there in black and white that a loss making American plant will survive and a profitable UK plant will close because the US authorities are backing their workers," he said. "The T&G will fight for our members jobs. We are urging our government to stop being naïve about global manufacturing and back UK companies."

Innovia was formed in 2004 and is part owned by Dennis Matthewman and UK venture capitalists Candover Partners Ltd. The company has three sites manufacturing cellophane - Bridgwater and Wigton in the UK and Tecumseh in Kansas, USA. The T&G has been told that one of the sites has to close to maximise efficiency and that Bridgwater is likely to be the plant chosen. The union said both the UK plants were both profitable but it understood the Kansas plant was losing the equivalent of the UK profits.

According to American press reports, Michael O'Brien, the Tecumseh plant manager said "Governments often talk about solving problems. The most impressive thing here is that they don't just talk they make things happen for Kansas." The reports said the Bridgwater plant had been provisionally targeted for closure but was dependent, in part, on the passage of the Kansas incentives. These $2m measures include $500,000 from the Shawnee County sales tax for economic development, more than $200,000 in property tax abatement, $180,000 in incentives from the Kansas Department of Commerce and $350,000 a year for three years from the state, by forgoing personal income tax payments from Innovia employees. Local Kansas legislators said this was similar to support given to retain and expand the Topeka Goodyear plant a couple of years ago.

"This is about as clear as you can get that government intervention is happening to the detriment of UK jobs," added Mr. Booth.


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