A MAJOR international lighting company has blamed increased competition for its decision to cut 29 jobs from a North-East factory.

Thorn Lighting, in Spennymoor, County Durham, says 20 production workers and nine further members of staff, including technicians and drivers, have applied for voluntary redundancy.

However, the firm, which employs about 500 people at its Spennymoor plant, has denied it has moved on to a three-day week, saying workers on flexible 48-hour contracts have seen hours reduced due to a drop in work demand.

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It opened its £28m factory, in Green Lane Industrial Estate, Spennymoor, in 2009, and has trained hundreds of people at its £1.3m Academy of Light.

Terry Carmichael, Thorn global operations director, said: “These were voluntary redundancies and never compulsory, and we are not on a three-day week.

“Our contracts can flex from 24-hours up to 48-hours and back down again.

“The voluntary redundancies cover production operatives as well as technicians and fork-lift drivers.

“This process is never a nice or easy thing to do but competition is severe in what is a very difficult market.

“The UK construction industry has fallen by more than 10 per cent from the previous year and the economy remains unstable.

"We have not been helped by government austerity measures which have reduced the amount of education, health and hospital projects.

“This is sad but an unfortunate necessary step and we are hoping to put the business in good shape for the future.”

The company, owned by the Zumbotel Group, has supplied lighting across the world, with clients including New Doha Airport, in Qatar, the Dolphin Stadium, in Miami, and the £300m Royal Valley Royal Hospital, in Larbert, Scotland.

Brian Anderson, from Unite the union, said it had worked with the firm, which has also sent lights to Heathrow Airport and the Imperial War Museum, to keep as many jobs as it could for members on the site.

He said: "We have been in consultation with the company and they have sought volunteers for redundancy.

"This figure has now been achieved, however, we are still working with them to try to find further savings, with the paramount position being to keep people employed."