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‘Stitched up’

Surgical suture plant closure threatens 400 jobs
Hajera Blagg, Friday, March 10th, 2017

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson announced yesterday (March 9) proposals that would threaten 400 jobs, as the firm put forward plans to shut a surgical suture manufacturing plant in Livingston, Scotland.


Ethicon, a subsidiary which runs the plant, slashed 850 jobs in 2003 in Edinburg after reducing its facilities for manufacturing needles and surgical sutures there. The subsidiary is now consulting with employees over the latest proposed closure.


Johnson & Johnson has said it plans to shut the Livingston site as part of larger restructuring plans in order to streamline operations. If the plant closes, production will likely shift to its higher capacity sites making surgical sutures in Texas, Brazil and Mexico.


Unite regional officer Derek Ormston called the latest news “shocking”.


“Many of our members at Ethicon have given long years of service to the company, and to be rewarded in this way will be heart-breaking,” he said. “There will also be feelings of uncertainty and anger.


“Unite will now consult with our members and work hard to defend their jobs throughout this consultation process,” he added.


“We will also be looking for support from politicians and public bodies. Ethicon has received public money to support its operations in Livingston, so they have a special responsibility to the workers.”


Politicians vowed to do all they could to secure jobs.


“The UK government has been working closely with Johnson & Johnson and the Scottish government to find a solution that will protect as many jobs as possible,” said Scottish Secretary David Mundell.


“Ministers will continue to hold discussions to help secure the future of the site,” he added.


West Lothian council leader John McGinty also said the local authority would do what it could.


“We are seeking to meet with the company’s senior management, as a matter of urgency, to discuss all and any alternatives to safeguard these jobs,” he said.


Economy Secretary Keith Brown said Scottish ministers are now focused on finding a new owner for the site.


Ormston said the news further underscored the need for an industrial strategy.


“Following the closure of Motorola and NEC, this is another major blow to the economy of West Lothian,” he said. “We can’t go on like this. We need to start asking questions about what kind of economy we want in Scotland and how we can create an industrial strategy that will grow and support manufacturing for the years to come.”


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