South East Wales

Linde: Jobs threat in Merthyr forklift factory closure talks

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Media captionThe owners of the Linde factory say the site has never been profitable

The owner of a factory employing 203 people making forklift trucks in Merthyr Tydfil has announced plans for its closure.

The Kion Group said the factory has never made a profit since it was reorganised in 2007.

A 90-day period of consultation is getting under way with staff.

The company said that if the closure goes ahead workers will be offered the opportunity to apply for positions at other sites.

However, Kion Group's chief executive officer Gordon Riske told BBC Wales the company's "nearest plant to Merthyr is Basingstoke" in Hampshire.

The firm also had potential opportunities across Europe, Asia and South America, he said.

He said the firm had an "order book that will take us into the third and fourth quarter of this year, so we do not expect an immediate closure.

"We will continue to run the production for the remainder of the year. We will work with each individual employee in terms of relocation package," he added.

Mr Riske confirmed if the closure was to go ahead, the factory would close by the end of the year.

Earlier in a statement, he said: "Despite all possible efforts, including a sustained period of restructuring since 2007, the site has never reached profitability in the face of strong macro-economic headwinds.

"With much regret, the Kion board has decided to enter into consultation about the potential closure of the site in order to ensure the future competitiveness and long-term sustainability of the group."

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Media captionKion Group's chief executive officer, Gordon Riske, spoke to Radio Wales' Nelli Bird

The Merthyr Tydfil site employs 203 people in manufacturing, engineering, sales, service and administration.

The company said the consultation with the affected employees, worker representatives, and unions will begin soon and will last for at least 90 days.

If this consultation results in a decision to close the plant, Kion will provide as much assistance as possible to employees seeking alternative work or training.

'Deeply worrying'

The company said the group will offer the opportunity to apply for vacant positions at other sites to the employees affected and also work with employees and their representatives to agree on appropriate loyalty and severance packages.

Graham Smith of the Unite union described the closure plan as a body blow to the area.

He said: "There have been a few redundancies and the writing was on the wall. But it's like having a sick relative for a couple of years. When the end comes it's still a shock".

"They are building forklift trucks from scratch. We can ill afford to lose these sort of jobs. It is a long standing work force with a very low turnover which says a lot."

Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney AM Huw Lewis called the news deeply worrying and said he would be meeting management and trade unions soon.

"Should the closure of the plant go ahead, it would be a major blow to the local economy and has the capability of causing considerable hardship upon its employees and their families.

"I know that the Welsh government has been keen to provide business with every possible assistance during these difficult times and I have urgently written to the Welsh government seeking their assistance."

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