Motorola defies Tony Blair and shuts Scottish factory

Prime minister's personal plea wasn't enough to stop the closure of the Bathgate factory - and the unions aren't happy

Over 3,000 Scottish workers are facing redundancy after UK mobile firm Motorola confirmed that it was to close its factory at Bathgate, despite the personal intervention of prime minister Tony Blair two weeks ago.

The company blames the move on the global slowdown in the mobile handset market. Closure will take place over the next six months, but Motorola insists that it is not certain that all 3,100 employees will be made redundant.

Politicians and union leaders have reacted angrily to news of the closure, which is likely to be discussed in an emergency debate at the Scottish parliament later today.

Mary Milligan, a Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), was disappointed that Motorola hadn't reacted to market conditions earlier, and warned that the impact on the local community would be devastating. "This plant has a great record for production and the workforce have given a tremendous amount to the company," said Milligan. "This is a cruel reward for their efforts and loyalty."

A Downing Street spokesman said that the prime minister saw the closure as a bitter blow for the whole community and regretted the job losses. Tony Blair conducted a 15 minute telephone call with Motorola president Chris Galvin after rumours of the impending closure of the Bathgate plant first emerged, and union sources have claimed that this bought the plant a short stay of execution.

Motorola has been slammed by some unions for its failure to talk with them. They believe they could have helped the company to find a solution that would have avoided compulsory job losses. One union leader slammed today's news as a costcutting exercise.

"Motorola has some serious questions to answer, the most important of which is why they are shutting a profitable plant in Scotland," said Bill Speers, general-secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, speaking to the Associated Press. "Is it because they can they offset their losses on the sister plant in Germany against tax?"

Speers indicated that workers should not give up hope because a solution could be found in the next six months. "This is not the end of the road. The unions will be using the consultation period to keep fighting for the plant's future," he added.

Workers at the Bathgate factory were told the news this morning. They had only just returned from an enforced two-week break.

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