Vow to save jobs at MFI

Union leaders today vowed to fight to save as many jobs as possible at a closure-hit Teesside factory.

MFI Logo

Union leaders today vowed to fight to save as many jobs as possible at a closure-hit Teesside factory.

MFI has dropped the bombshell that it is axing its Hygena kitchen and bedroom furniture plant, at Preston Farm, Stockton, with the loss of 533 jobs.

The news came as the company plunged £600,000 into the red.

Today Ian Wood, Transport and General Workers Union regional industrial organiser, said: "We'll be doing our best to mitigate these job losses in whatever way we can."

The T&G will be meeting MFI senior managers tomorrow to start the formal redundancy consultation process. As well as Stockton, MFI plans to shut a factory at Scunthorpe, where 399 people work.

Mr Wood added: "There's no doubt job losses on this scale are a bitter blow to the local communities."

But there was a glimmer of hope for MFI's Teesside employees.

For most workers involved in another big plant closure in the Stockton area found new jobs.

An intense campaign was launched by the council, regional agency One NorthEast and local job centres, after electronics giant Samsung pulled out of Wynyard in April 2004 throwing 400 workers on the dole.

But four months later it turned out nearly 80pc of the workforce had found alternative employment or training places. A total of 286 people who lost their jobs had found new ones, with a further 28 taking up full-time training courses.

In all, 397 people were made redundant from a total workforce of 418, with 21, at that time, remaining on site to wind down operations.

MFI is cutting 1,500 UK jobs as it battles to revive its flagging fortunes.

It also unveiled a major shift in its focus by planning to sell more upmarket kitchens and bedrooms and cutting back on other areas such as home furnishings and office products.

It also plans to close 11 stores but their locations have not been revealed.

Christian Koeford-Nielsen, analyst at Panmure Gordon, believed more store closures were "inevitable".

He said: "This is not a cyclical recovery story. It is a structurally compromised retailer that is expected to struggle as new capacity continues to encroach further on its core business."

Another MFI 128 jobs are threatened at its Howden UK joinery business near Hull ,as the company aims to source 75pc of products from abroad by the end of 2006 - saving £12m a year.

Its focus on the more profitable kitchen and bedroom markets would see it cut its number of ranges, while pulling out from home furniture means the sale of its Sofa Workshop arm - where 95 jobs could go.

It will also close at least 11 of its 215 stores, costing another 95 jobs, while a further 180 jobs are threatened by the proposed closure of three regional home delivery centres, at Aldershot, Glasgow and Nottingham.

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