Posted: Fri 29th May 2020

Welsh Government urged to act following closure of Gwynedd tissue paper plant

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Friday, May 29th, 2020

Local politicians have urged the Welsh Government to meet directors of a Gwynedd plant which is set to close with the loss of almost 100 jobs.

It was announced on Tuesday that Northwood Hygiene, which manufactures tissue paper, is to shut its Penygroes base in a move that’s been blamed on the Coronavirus pandemic.

But fearing the loss of 94 jobs, the local MP and MS have called for an urgent meeting with both the Welsh Government and the Managing Director of Northwood Hygiene.

In a letter to Northwood Hygiene MD Peter Foy, Hywel Williams and Siân Gwenllian say they are “dismayed at plans” to close the converting factory despite “unprecedented order levels” and staff working long hours to satisfy increased demand.

They have also written to Welsh Government Minister for the Economy Ken Skates to ascertain what practical steps he will take to support the local workforce in this increasingly uncertain situation.

In response, the ministers say that they are working with Gwynedd Council, unions and the DWP in a bid to find a resolution.

“The company has rooted itself in the local community for many years so this news is a huge economic blow at a time when we can ill-afford to lose jobs,”  said Hywel Williams and Sian Gwenllian in a joint statement.

“New employment will be hard to find and over ninety local families will now be left to struggle on reduced incomes.

“The company website says that they are a ‘thriving’ business, so news of the closure has come as a real shock to the area.’

“We also know that the factory was very busy at the beginning of the lock-down with ‘unprecedented order levels’ and staff at the Penygroes site working long hours to satisfy demand.’

“We therefore find it surprising that such a far-reaching and highly emotive decision has been taken at a time of such uncertainty and when the economic picture remains unclear.’

“It is incumbent on Northwood Hygiene to explain the reasons behind this decision. Every effort must be made to protect the skilled workforce in Penygroes, some of whom have given years of service to the company.”

The company blamed the decision on a “contraction in market demand as a consequence of Covid-19,” adding that “the subsequent significant fall in current and forecasted sales volumes has led to this very difficult decision”.

In a statement, they said they remained “fully committed to following a consultation process with all employees and trade union representatives” which will now be underway for at least 30 days.

Production will continue at the company’s remaining sites in Telford, Oldham, Birmingham, Lancaster and Bromsgrove.

But local county councillor, Judith Humphreys, said the news was “gravely disappointing” for the community after years of faithful and conscientious work for this company.

“Now our task begins, as we work together as politicians to search for solutions, to support staff and to open the door for direct discussions with the company to see if there is any way to find positive solutions,” she added.

“But there is also disbelief locally that a company selling professional hygiene and wiping products during a pandemic has been flooded with work and fails at a time when the sector has grown.

“The loss of 94 jobs for the people of Dyffryn Nantlle is devastating news. My responsibility now is to ask the right questions on their behalf and to reach out to support them during the coming days and weeks.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This news comes at a challenging time and will be very worrying for the workforce and their families. We have been in touch with our partners, including the local authority, union and the DWP and will work with them and the company to explore all options during the consultation period.”

By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter

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