The American owners of Spondon factory Celanese Acetate today blamed soaring UK energy prices for their devastating plan to shut the plant with the loss of 460 jobs. Celanese Corporation said it was consulting with staff over proposals to close the site next year to concentrate production in Belgium, the US and Mexico, where power costs were cheaper.
The move would bring to an end almost 100 years of acetate production at the factory and be the final death knell for an iconic city business which once employed 20,000 people.
Workers reacted with shock to the news last night.
The company has employed generations of the same families and among those now set to lose their jobs are father and son Glenn and Chris Dono.
Glenn, 48, who has spent 26 years at the plant, said: “I just hope something can be done to save the site.”
Officials at union Unite are seeking urgent talks with Celanese managers in a bid to persuade them to sell the factory as a going concern.
Over the past two years, the company has laid off staff and negotiated new contracts with suppliers of raw materials but was unable to save enough money on its energy consumption to keep the business alive.
Bob Walters, general manager of the global Celanese Acetate business, said: “The Spondon site has worked diligently for many years to improve its competitiveness and cost. Despite the best efforts of many dedicated employees and Celanese investments, the operating costs at Spondon remain the highest in Celanese Acetate.
“Moreover, shifts in geographic demand, anticipated industry consumption patterns and the site’s high costs lead us to propose the cessation of manufacturing at Spondon.
“All affected employees will be treated fairly and respectfully throughout this process,” said Mr Walters.
A spokesman for the Derby-based company said: “A lot of work was carried out to reduce costs but there was no way to make any inroads into reducing our fundamental energy costs, which are much higher in the UK than overseas.
“The biggest differential in costs between ourselves and other sites in the group is the price of energy,” he said.
UK energy prices have skyrocketed by 16.7% in the last year against an average increase of just 3.8% in the European Union.