Union meeting after Sharp announces hundreds of job losses

The firm said it was stopping production of solar panels at its Llay factory

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A union says plans to cut hundreds of jobs at electronics giant Sharp's solar panel plant was a "big shock" to the workforce in Wrexham.

Sharp said it was cutting 250 jobs and not renewing 365 agency workers' contracts in an announcement on Monday.

The company said the decision affecting its Llay factory was "unavoidable" given trading conditions which "left Wrexham's output uncompetitive".

The Unite union said it had not been consulted on the plans.

Brian Apsley from Unite said the closure of the solar panel line was relayed to staff before Unite was informed.

"I don't regard that as proper consultation," he said.

He added that although there may have been warning signals when the government cut the feed-in tariff subsidy, the closure announcement still came as a shock.

'Difficult decision'

Mr Apsley and the local union representatives will hold their first consultation meeting with Sharp management on Thursday afternoon.

The first priority was to talk about off-setting or reducing redundancies, though the decision already appears to have been made regarding the solar plant, he said.

The factory near Wrexham will cease solar panel production in February.

Sharp said its European solar business was being transformed to ensure "regeneration and long-term growth".

Boss of the company Hiroshi Sasaoka said the decision was a difficult one.

"It is with sincere regret that we have decided to end solar panel production in Wrexham," he said.

"Our employees are our greatest asset, and we have been fortunate to have a loyal, hardworking and committed workforce since we began solar production here in 2004.

Support

"The Wrexham facility will continue to produce microwave ovens, and we will be investigating additional products for development."

The Welsh government has offered its support to those facing redundancy.

Sharp opened its factory in Wrexham in 1984 and is one of the town's biggest employers.

In 2004, it began manufacturing solar panels for both residential and commercial installations and two years ago it expanded production following a boom in the industry.

Sharp also created a training facility for solar panel installers.

However, Sharp stopped any further expansion when changes were made to government subsidies paid under the feed-in tariff to householders in late 2011.

The company said there was the possibility the factory may develop other products on the site in the future.

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