Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

700 Jobs Hang in the Balance

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

700 Jobs Hang in the Balance

Article excerpt

Byline: By Graeme King

Atmel announcement ominous, says union

Microchip manufacturer Atmel has left 700 jobs in limbo after putting its North Tyneside factory up for sale.

The US company plans to sell its pounds 450m plant within 12 months, but if no buyer is found, it is believed the site could close.

Atmel came to the North-East six years ago, after getting a pounds 27.8m grant to take over the former Siemens factory next to the Silverlink retail complex in North Tyneside.

Siemens had closed two years earlier, a year and a half after it opened with a pounds 30m grant.

A key trade union official said yesterday Atmel's announcement was ominous.

And questions are being asked about how much of its grant Atmel has received and what it might have to pay back.

One employee, who did not want to be named, said yesterday: "Jobs could go if they do not find a buyer, but we have a year of work ahead, so I'm not worried about my job."

Another said: "We've got until December next year. There are no job losses now."

But a third said: "We are all worried about this. They have said they hope to find a buyer, but if they do not, that's the end of the line for us. We will close." Atmel put the plant up for sale alongside another in Heilbronn, Germany, and altogether 1,300 jobs are at stake across Atmel's total workforce of 8,000.

The cuts are expected to generate savings of pounds 35m to pounds 41m next year, and more in years to come. Atmel made a loss of pounds 17m last year.

president and chief executive Steven Laub said: "NTS (The North Tyneside plant) is a world class, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and the company is confident a sale can be concluded without disruption to our employees and customers."

Development agency One NorthEast is investigating the terms of the grant to Atmel.

A spokesman said: "Claw-back provision exists with every award of RSA and SFI grant aid ( we are speaking with the DTI to review the position regarding this particular grant."

Amicus regional secretary Davey Hall said: "Our members have real concerns about the future of their employment, and taking into account the difficulties that emerged eight years ago, this announcement has ominous tones. …

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