Council pledges support for Morley factory workers

CLOSING DOWN The Kodak factory in Howley Park Road Estate. (D522K409)
CLOSING DOWN The Kodak factory in Howley Park Road Estate. (D522K409)

Leeds City Council has pledged its support to more than 200 Morley factory workers facing redundancy.

Kodak announced the closure of its plate production plant in Howley Park Road Estate on Monday.

The site is to be shut by late 2015, with the first of 210 jobs expected to go this summer.

Coun Neil Dawson (Lab, Morley South) said: “I was extremely disappointed to hear the news that the Kodak plant is due to close.

“We are clearly very concerned for the workers at the plant and this is why we will do all we can to ensure they are provided with all the support they require during this very difficult time.

“We have begun initial discussions with the company and will continue to work closely with them.”

The council has said it will work with Kodak to look all opportunities for supporting staff, helping them find work wherever possible and protecting the local economy.

Morley MP Ed Balls and the union Unite are also seeking talks with the company.

Mr Balls (Lab) said: “This is devastating news for all 210 staff at the Kodak factory in Morley.

“Kodak have a long and proud history of manufacturing in the town and I’m very concerned that an efficient and profitable operation is being closed.”

Unite regional officer Chris Daly said: “It’s come as a surprise to people at the site. I think it’s probably a decision that’s been made at their US head office as opposed to locally.

“This is a significant loss of skilled jobs that can’t easily be replaced.

“I’m keen to speak to Kodak about why the decision has been made, what the consequences are and how they might compensate people for the loss of their jobs.”

The company announced its plans for the factory as part of a statement on the restructuring of its worldwide plate production facilities.

It said it had upgraded sites in Germany and China, and would phase out production in Morley over the next 18 months.

The Morley factory makes printing plates for the commercial printing industry, and its work is to start moving to other sites later this year.

General manager of worldwide plate operations Robert Price said: “Our employees in Leeds have a long history of capably serving our customers with the quality products they have come to expect from Kodak.

“However, with the investments we made last year in the new high-speed manufacturing line, the capacity of our Osterode plant [in Germany] can now meet future demand growth from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”

It said employees would be offered separation benefits and transition services, but gave no further details.

Unite said it understood an unspecified number of jobs would be lost this summer, with the remaining staff being made redundant in the middle of 2015.

Mr Balls said: “Kodak must ensure all the options have been explored on this so that if jobs can be saved, they are.

“And if jobs are being lost we need to make sure workers are getting all the support they need at what will be a really difficult time for them and their families.

“I have also written to the Business Secretary to ensure he is aware of the impact on UK manufacturing.”