EXCLUSIVE: Jobs to go in Heckmondwike

THE 600UK Group is to shed a dozen jobs at its Heckmondwike factory – despite posting £1m profit this year.

Friday, 9th September 2011, 9:49 am

The move has prompted fears that the firm will move out of the UK altogether.

The company is one of Spen’s major manufacturing businesses with a workforce of 83 people at the Union Street factory, producing machine tools.

Employees were called into a meeting on Wednesday afternoon and were told by bosses that 12 jobs would be axed.

The company has turned around a £1.2m loss into a £1.1m profit this year, but high costs of production in the UK has meant two product ranges are now to be manufactured in Poland.

It also announced a £5m refinancing deal last month.

Bosses say the turn around in fortunes saved the whole Heckmondwike operation.

However, a union official said the remaining staff were ‘petrified’ over the future of their jobs.

Unite officer Ray Jones said: “Over the past 18 months the company has halved its workforce.

“The staff have not had a pay rise for four years and they are at the bottom end.

“It is our members’ belief that it is the company’s intention to close the facility. The workforce at this point are extremely nervous and scared of what’s going on.

“We have asked the company to consider various other options and we have been told to go away. They are not interested.

“It is my belief that the facility will not be based in the UK.”

“The rest of the staff are petrified of what’s going on.”

However, 600 Group chief executive David Norman has denied this and reiterated that the company’s was staying put.

He said: “The commitment to Heckmondwike is still very strong but the factory is not suitable for what we will be producing there.

“We are looking for more modern facilities and we are still looking for a site in Kirklees, because that is where the skills are.

“We don’t need a factory of this size and it’s also very old. It even has a stream running through it.”

Mr Norman said productino costs meant jobs had to be cut, and it did not mean demand for products had diminished and orders remained steady.

He said: “Of course, I have sympathy for the staff but what I cannot do is discriminate by nationality and I’m pleased the head count has gone up in Poland.

“Activity at Heckmondwike will focus on the remaining products and there’s no reason to say that in the future anything will change.

“In effect, the turn around from loss to profit has secured jobs for the vast majority of our staff, and our order levels are holding up very well.”