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New jobs blow as Jarrow chemical plant announces shock closure

SAD DAY ... Unites Bob Bolam says the closure of Rohm and Haas, above, will be a big blow for Jarrow.

SAD DAY ... Unites Bob Bolam says the closure of Rohm and Haas, above, will be a big blow for Jarrow.

SHOCK closure plans have been announced for a South Tyneside chemical plant.

Rohm and Haas in Jarrow is set to shut down within 18 months after more than 50 years in operation.

More than 50 staff have been informed of the closure plans by site management.

One union leader called the move “a big blow for Jarrow”, adding that he believes the riverside factory’s work will be transferred to China.

The news comes just months after one of two plants was taken out of operation and production was cut at the Ellison Street site, run by industry giant the Dow Chemical Company since 2009.

A spokesman for the multinational firm said: “After an extensive and careful review, the Dow microbial control business has determined that the Jarrow site will be unable to meet the future, long-term needs of the business.

“The announcement reflects Dow’s ongoing focus on further improving its operational productivity, identifying opportunities to continually enhance the long-term value of businesses such as Dow Microbial Control.

“The proposed transition of manufacturing out from the Jarrow facility is expected to take place over the next 12 to 18 months.

“Until the transfer is complete, the Jarrow facility will remain a fully operational manufacturing facility, safely, reliably and efficiently making and shipping product and serving our customers.”

Bob Bolam, regional officer for the Unite union, said: “This is a very sad day for Rohm and Haas and a big blow for Jarrow.

“Rohm and Haas has been part of the town for more than 50 years, but we have been told the intention is to close the plant in the next 12 to 18 months and then transfer the work to China.

“We are moving into the consultation period now, and I will be meeting with Unite reps at the plant to discuss the next moves.

“The Jarrow plant used to employ more than 200 people, but that number is down to between 50 and 60. Workers could be offered alternative employment, but the nearest Rohm and Haas plant to Jarrow is Seal Sands in Middlesbrough, so that may not be an option for some staff.”

Part of the manufacturing process at Jarrow was transferred to China in 2007.

As recently as a dozen years ago, the Jarrow plant employed 200 people, but that figure has steadily decreased in recent years.

It was hoped the 2009 buyout by Dow would safeguard the future of the plant and its then 90-strong workforce.

Coun Ken Stephenson, chairman of South Tyneside Council’s Jarrow and Boldon community area forum, said: “It’s very sad to see a major employer like Rohm and Haas go, but this may be again the result of foreign competition.

“Rohm and Haas has been part of the fabric of the town for over 50 years, and it’s very sad news that it may be closed down.”

Run by the Lennig Chemical Company in its earliest days, the plant produces chemicals for a wide range of industries and applications, including building, coatings, adhesives and electronics.

Dow officials have told the Jarrow workforce of their plans to transfer manufacturing out of the facility to what a company spokesman called “a third-party toll operation”.

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The plant employed more than 200 people as recently as 12 years ago, but its staff levels have gradually been reduced in recent years, as a result of cutbacks and work being transferred abroad.

In 2000, 75 job losses were announced as part of a rationalisation programme at the site.

Celebrations were held in 2005 when Rohm and Haas marked its 50th anniversary in South Tyneside, but just months later, in 2006, it was announced that a third of the plant’s 142-strong workforce was facing the axe due to the company moving part of its operations to China.

In January 2009, the European Commission approved the multi-billion-pound sale of Philadelphia-based Rohm and Haas to the giant Dow Chemical Company.

Announcing the deal, management predicted the sale would safeguard the future of the Jarrow site.

But this week came the news that the long-established plant is to be axed.

Rohm and Haas has worked hard in recent years to become a good neighbour.

Its early days as Lennig and later Rohm and Haas saw the firm often criticised for smells coming from the plant, sparking complaints throughout the town.

But the site later established a community forum, so local people could oversee any complaints and problems with smells were virtually eliminated.

 

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