ALMOST 400 jobs have been lost in the Spen Valley as one of the oldest firms in the area has gone into administration.
Birkby’s Plastics Limited, established in 1867, announced on Tuesday it was to close.
The firm, which makes plastic parts for the automotive industry, employs 371 workers, who will eventually be made redundant.
Stunned workers were told at meetings on Monday a buyer could not be found for the ailing company, which has been operating at a loss for a number of years.
A source, who did not want to be named, said the company had lots of orders but nobody to invest.
She said: “Everyone was called into a meeting on Monday. People were in tears. Husbands and wives work there; sons and daughters – generations of families work at Birkby’s. I can’t imagine this area without Birkby’s Plastics. The knock on effect will be unbelievable. Everybody knows someone who has worked at Birkby’s – it’s just so devastating.”
Tim Roache, GMB union’s Yorkshire secretary, said the union had been in talks with Birkby’s and administrators Ernst and Young since the start of the year to try and find a buyer, but none could be found.
He said: “It is a very specialised industry and because of the recession people are not buying cars, and that has impacted on this company.
“There had been some interest and we encouraged suppliers to purchase the company and save these jobs but there was no luck.
“Another 400 manufacturing jobs going is the last thing we can afford. We are becoming a country of service industries.
“We are still in talks with the administrators to do what we can to save this company.”
Ernst and Young said redundancies would come after operations at the 24 acre Headlands Road site in Liversedge were wound down but a timescale had not been set.
Hunter Kelly, from Ernst and Young, said it had been trying to find a buyer since the beginning of the year, but had been unsuccessful.
“The company has been operating at a loss for a few years, a position it could no longer maintain,” he said.
“Birkby’s will continue to supply major customers, while we identify alternative suppliers. We are grateful to the employees, suppliers and clients for their continued support.”
Local politicians were united in their sadness over the news. Kirklees Council leader Mehboob Khan said the council had been helping Birkby’s with business rates – but added: “The problem is too large and too serious now for the council to step in.
“I’m very concerned about the loss of jobs and the impact it will have on the local economy. The council supported the firm through the first downturn but this second downturn is affecting the car manufacturing industry far worse that any other.
“Birkby’s is a great company and it’s very sad news.”
Spen MP Mike Wood said: “I am shocked by the news but hope, even at this stage, that Birkby’s can keep operating so that the jobs are maintained in the hope that eventually the economic climate will look up.
“I am talking to the management and unions who represent the workforce to offer whatever support I can.”
Liversedge and Gomersal councillor Margaret Bates (Con) said: “The council is working with Birkby’s to try to find a solution. I hope something can be done because there are jobs at stake. I hope this is not the end of Birkby’s”.