End of era as glass firm sets closure date

First published in Business News

MORE than 120 years of glass blowing in Sunderland will come to an end when glassmaker Corning Incorporated closes in March with the loss of 100 jobs, it was confirmed yesterday.

The US-owned group announced that its Wear Glass Works plant will close on March 31, because of the declining profitability.

The 100 workers were given their redundancy notices at the start of this month.

All will receive a redundancy package, which was approved by the unionised workforce in a secret ballot, and which Corning said it believes to be "fair, reasonable and in line with other companies in the Sunderland area".

The factory, in the Pallion area of the city, manufactures specialist glass products, such as laboratory beakers and flasks for the group's life sciences division, and rolled sheet glass used in car headlights for its speciality materials division.

Corning, which has operated on the site since 1973, confirmed it was to close in October.

A 90-day consultation period was launched between the company and GMB and Amicus unions to look at possibilities for the future of the Wear Glass Works.

However, yesterday, Corning communications manager John O'Hare said despite a number of cost-saving measures over the past few years, the factory had suffered financially and there was no alternative but to close. "The recommendation to close the Sunderland facility was driven by the plant's cost structure, its product mix and by its financial performance, which could no longer justify Corning's continual investment," he said.

Mr O'Hare said all orders and manufacturing commitments would be fulfilled until March 31.

Corning, which is listed on the New York stock exchange and has scores of sites across the world, has operated a factory in Sunderland since 1973.

In 1994, it sold a large part of the plant manufacturing glasswear under the Pyrex brand to US rival Newell.

In January last year, that site, employing more than 230 people, was acquired by Arc International.

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