LONDON (ZDNet UK)--Union officials are concerned that 600 employees at a Motorola semiconductor factory in Scotland could be laid off after the company said that it was looking to sell the plant.
Previously the US mobile phone manufacturer had planned to keep the factory at South Queensferry, near Edinburgh, open until the workers could be transferred to a new plant in nearby Dunfermline. However, the opening of the Dunfermline factory has been indefinitely postponed because of the current slump in the mobile market.
Now Motorola, which is already closing one factory in Scotland with the loss of over 3,000 jobs, has said that would consider offers for the Queensferry plant, which employs 600 workers.
"If the opportunity came to sell the site then that is what we would do," Tony Joyce, Motorola communications manager, told Business AM, adding that Motorola was hoping to maintain production at Queensferry until the Dunfermline site opens.
Union leaders believe that a sale could result in further high-tech job losses in Scotland, and Raymond Wilson, of the Transport & General Workers' Union, wants Motorola to clarify the situation. "If the site is sold before Dunfermline opens, what happens then? They can't lay people off for a year or however long," Wilson said.
After making its first ever loss in the first quarter of this year, Motorola is under pressure to cut costs. The mobile market has been badly affected by a drop in the growth in handset sales and by the US economic slowdown, and Motorola recently admitted that orders were down "very significantly" in the Americas and Europe, and down "significantly" in the Asia-Pacific region.
The decision to close Motorola's Bathgate factory last month came despite a personal plea by prime minister Tony Blair. Unions and the Scottish Executive condemned the move, and demanded that Motorola repay £20m it had received in employment grants.