Consumer products giant Newell Rubbermaid Inc. plans to shut down two household goods plants in the United Kingdom, cutting as many as 212 jobs as part of a national consolidation.
In addition to closing plants in Corby and Carlisle, England, the company is cutting work at a sales and administration facility in Basildon, England, which employs less than 20.
Most production work will be switched to undisclosed sites in mainland Europe, according Rubbermaid Group Europe, a Paris-based subsidiary. Some products made in Britain are being phased out.
A Rubbermaid spokeswoman blamed the moves on high labor costs, which have led to losses despite Britain being the company's largest home products market in Europe.
The plan is an especially heavy blow to the 162 workers at the Curver Consumer Products Ltd. injection molding plant at Corby, according to a union official.
The plant already has cut 144 jobs since mid-2001 due to a reorganization and a shift of rotational molding work to Rubbermaid's plant in Slupsk, Poland, according to Bob Scott, a trade union official representing nearly 100 workers left at the plant.
Scott said the plant has made substantial sales and productivity improvements in recent months. Rubbermaid and union officials on Nov. 4 started a 90-day consultation process related to the shutdown.
The Corby plant makes kitchen and bathroom products. The facility runs about 18 injection presses and houses four surplus rotational molding lines once used to mold Little Tikes tricycles and other toys, Scott said. The site also has warehouse and distribution facilities.
In Carlisle, where the company employs 39, the plant assembles Graco children's car seats and other baby products.
``We have an unacceptable level of overheads in Britain and it is not a viable business. We need to consolidate our business in the United Kingdom to enable us to return to profitability,'' a Rubbermaid spokeswoman said in a telephone interview.
The company will restructure its local operations into a new unit, Rubbermaid UK.
``It is hoped to limit the number of job losses by sourcing alternative employment in the new U.K. structure,'' the company said in a news release. Any saved jobs are likely to be in sales and administration, Scott said. The company wants an outside contractor to handle storage and distribution, he said.
Rubbermaid plans to relocate warehousing and distribution from Corby ``to a location closer to our key customer warehouses,'' the news release said.
Scott believes Newell Rubbermaid officials in the United States - the company is based in Freeport, Ill. - decided to close the European plants as far back as 18 months ago.
``If they had come to us then and explained the proposal, we could have agreed on a two- to three-year plan. We understand the difficulties with the strong pound sterling and the delay in Britain deciding to join the euro,'' he said. ``But they should be looking to the long term and this is very shortsighted of them.''
Last year the Corby plant was operating at only 28 percent of its capacity, but improved productivity and better sales boosted that to 30-50 percent this year.
``There was a lot of concern among our members but they hoped, because the company was saying [Britain] is a big market and it wanted to concentrate on injection molding, that the plant could be saved,'' Scott said.
Rubbermaid introduced rotomolding to Corby in 2000.