LG Philips closure marks end of an era

The workforce at a doomed electronics plant were described as "phenomenal" yesterday as production ceased for the last time.

The workforce at a doomed electronics plant were described as "phenomenal" yesterday as production ceased for the last time.

Since the closure of the LG Philips plant at Belmont, Durham City, was announced in March with the loss of 761 jobs, production increased and absenteeism decreased.

Factory convener and European Works Council chairman Bill Blakelock said yesterday: "The workforce here has been phenomenal. It is a very emotional day.

"Strong men have been reduced almost to tears. After all, they have possibly spent more hours with their workmates over the years than they have with their wives.

"I would urge any employers to give these lads a job, they are phenomenal.

"Since the closure was announced, production has gone up month on month, and absenteeism is down to less than three per cent."

Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said it was "a tragedy" that the Dutch-Korean group had not invested in new technology to keep the plant open

She added: "We have set a target of finding 90% of the workforce resettled by the end of October, and we are still confident this target can be met."

LG Philips blamed an increasing demand for new, flat plasma TV screens for the closure of the plant, after 33 years.

Mr Blakelock added: "To change production to flat screens would have meant this plant being razed to the ground and a new plant being built at a cost of £100m, which was not going to be realistic."

Lenny Ballentine, 55, from Langley Park, near Durham, plans to go to college to train as a teacher in adult literacy.

The father-of-two explained: "I have worked here for 25 years, and before that for the steelworks in Consett. I have been working shifts for 40 years and now I am looking for a change in direction.

"I can now go back to college, whereas shiftworking made that difficult in the past.

"But I am looking for part-time work to help fund me through college."

A series of job fairs are being held at the plant until October, and prospective employers are urged to contact Nicole Worth on (0191) 386-6131, ext 3490.

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