Wedgwood axes staff and moves production to Asia

Waterford Wedgwood is following in the footsteps of vacuum cleaner firm
Dyson by moving part of its ceramics production to the Far East, shedding more
than 1,000 jobs.

The company has announced the phased closure of two earthenware factories
based in Stoke-on-Trent, resulting in the loss of 761 production-related jobs
and a further 297 infrastructure-related positions.

In February last year, Dyson announced 800 UK redundancies as a result of
moving production to Malaysia.

A spokesman for Waterford Wedgwood said its management was consulting with
the pottery union CATU and hoped some of the job losses could be delivered
through voluntary redundancy.

He said the firm has been hit by a combination of the growth of foreign
imports in key UK and US markets and challenging trading conditions, meaning it
is unable to compete against significantly lower overseas manufacturing costs.

Richard Hawes, partner within consultancy Grant Thornton’s recovery and
re-organisation practice, said the drain of jobs to the Far East would
continue.

"Attracted by cheap labouring costs, free trade zones and improved
global reach, many UK companies are following the example of the likes of Dyson
and moving production lines to Asia to increase profit margins."

However John Philpott, chief economist for the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development, does not believe there will be a huge exodus of
manufacturing jobs abroad.

"I think it is the lower cost, lower value operations that are most at
risk," he said.

By Ben Willmott

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