Trade secretary Stephen Byers has won praise from UK unions for the efforts made by the government to save jobs in the struggling mobile phone sector.
According to reports, Swedish mobile phone company Ericsson is close to finding a buyer for two British manufacturing plants. The factories, which are in Nottinghamshire and Scunthorpe and employ over 1,000 people, were put up for sale in March as part of a major cost-cutting move by Ericsson.
Ericsson has built up good relations with UK unions in the past, and the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) is pleased that there is a chance that UK workers could be saved from redundancy.
"We are grateful for the efforts that Stephen Byers and the Labour Government has made to help resolve the difficulties in the mobile industry, and we will obviously welcome any deal which will save jobs," a AEEU spokesman said on Wednesday morning.
According to the FT, the government is keen to have a deal in place before the General Election on 7 June, and has been using British embassies around the world in its attempts to find a buyer. The likely buyer is not thought to be a mobile phone maker.
The mobile industry is currently suffering from a drop in demand for handsets, and has also been hit by the economic slowdown in America. Rival manufacturer Motorola is planning to close a factory in Bathgate, Scotland, with the loss of 3,000 jobs, despite the efforts of the government -- which included a personal plea to the head of Motorola from prime minister Tony Blair. In this case, as with Ericsson, the AEEU believes that the government has done its best.
"We're acutely aware that if the government had not intervened with Motorola then there was no chance at all of saving jobs. They were able to open a dialogue, something Motorola had refused to do with the unions," explained the AEEU spokesman.
According to sources within Motorola's Bathgate plant, workers are being given information on redundancy and advice on finding new jobs. Motorola has a policy of not negotiating with unions, but is in a 90-day consultation period with staff representatives. However, workers have been warned that this period could be terminated early if negotiations were to break down, leading to an earlier closure of the plant.
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