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Chemical plant closure massive blow for Teeside and industry

10 July 2009

Dow, one of the world's biggest chemical companies, is to pull out of its Wilton plant in Teesside. This will not only devastate a community already battered by job losses but will also destabilise the vital UK chemical sector, warns Unite, the UK's largest union.
Dow will walk away from the plant in January 2010 with the immediate loss of up to 260 skilled jobs in the north east.

Chemical plant closure massive blow for Teeside and industry
Chemical plant closure massive blow for Teeside and industry

But Unite is warning that the closure of such a strategically vital plant could trigger a crisis across the chemical industry with job losses snowballing to over 3000 in total throughout the sector.

Wilton is the only UK site making ethylene oxide (EO), a strategic raw material used by the chemical sector and is central to the production of everyday goods from antifreeze to soaps, paints to make up. The EO compound is hazardous to transport and its movement is regulated, which means that businesses purchasing the material cluster near the source plant. The impending closure of the Wilton plant therefore also puts those businesses dependent on it at serious risk of closure too.

According to Unite's national officer for the chemical sector, Phil McNulty, the Wilton plant simply cannot be lost: "It cannot be stressed enough that this plant stands at the heart of a strategic business for the UK. Unite is working day and night to find a solution to this threatened closure because its loss would be devastating.

"This plant doesn't just provides skilled work for hundreds of people in Teesside where decent jobs are becoming scarce, but the product it produces is also vital to the enduring success of the UK chemical sector. Its closure would cause a runaway reaction across the industry and put thousands of jobs at risk."
The union has pledged to do all in its power to resist the closure, urging the government to take a leading role to save jobs and preserve the estimated £560m Wilton contributes to the UK balance of payments every year. Unite says that the roots of today's problem lie in the sell-off ten years ago of the plant by ICI which saw the plant broken down into a number of smaller sites. This means that even though a company may be solvent it cannot continue if the EO production capacity is lost at the site.

"This site is at the beginning of a production process which ultimately results in so many of the goods on the shelves in our shops," continued McNulty.

"We simply cannot lose it. We need urgent assistance from government to ensure we can find an alternative owner so that we can safeguard these skilled jobs and defend this sector."

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