Future of Work

Electronics giant Philips is to close its only UK factory, at Glemsford, Suffolk, with the loss of 430 jobs. The firm said it would close the site, which makes baby bottles, in 2020 and transfer most of its operations to a site in the Netherlands.

It said the move was part of plans to scale down its factory portfolio from 50 sites worldwide to 30. Boss Frans van Houten has also expressed concerns about the impact of Brexit in recent months.

Neil Mesher, chief executive of Philips UK & Ireland said the decision had been made “after careful consideration” and that the firm would work with the staff affected.

He said the decision to close Glemsford was made towards the end of 2018, but that the UK’s exit from the European Union was not a deciding factor.

“Clearly the timing was very difficult, but regardless of the Brexit outcome we would still be making this announcement,” he said.

Late last year, Philips chief executive, Frans van Houten told the Independent newspaper that Philips would have to rethink its manufacturing footprint in Britain if the UK were to leave the European customs union.

However, Philips said while Brexit was one of the geopolitical factors that was affecting business conditions for the firm in Europe, it was “one point of many” and was not the driver for the closure of the site.

Philips said it began the process of consolidating of its manufacturing sites more than two years ago, with the aim of creating 30 larger regional hubs, covering multiple product categories.

Production of the baby feeding bottles will be moved to Drachten in the Netherlands.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said the news was “a massive blow”.

“It’s something that makes me proud to be able to say these products are made in south Suffolk and exported all around the world and now they will be made in Holland and exported all around the world. It’s gutting, quite frankly,” he said.

He said the task now for the region was to attract new inward investment to replace Philips and Delphi Diesel Systems in Sudbury, which said in September it was winding down operations.

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