'˜Ethicon staff and families must be put first' say politicians

BUSINESS leaders and politicians have demanded that workers and their families be put first during a planned ­Livingston factory closure.

Saturday, 11th March 2017, 8:24 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 9:35 am
There are hopes that new jobs can be found for 400 at-risk workers. Picture: Ian Georgeson
There are hopes that new jobs can be found for 400 at-risk workers. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Evening News reported yesterday how 400 jobs would go should drugs giant Johnson & Johnson shut the Ethicon plant.

Production of medical supplies would be switched from the Kirkton campus site to the US, Brazil and Mexico.

Labour member for Livingston North, Angela Moohan, said: “The loss of 400 jobs to the local economy is obviously terrible news.

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“I hope that both the council and the Scottish Government can come together to put a package of support in terms of sustainable jobs for the future in West Lothian.

“The local authority, chamber of commerce, the Scottish Government and other agencies need to look at how people affected can be supported as best as possible.”

Staff were called to a meeting at the factory to be told of the closure plans before a 45-day official consultation period on the proposals.

The Scottish and UK governments said they were in talks with the company about the plant, while the Unite union pledged to defend the threatened jobs.

If closure plans go ahead, it will mark the end of a 100-year association with the area. Ethicon was formed in 1915 by Edinburgh pharmacist George F Merson.

His firm, which produced catgut sutures for surgery, was snapped up by US firm Johnson & Johnson in the 1940s.

Linda Scott, chief executive of West Lothian Chamber of Commerce, said she was “shocked” at news of the closure.

“Normally you get a feel for these things coming but I didn’t get that at all – it was a big shock to see the TV cameras outside.”

Ms Scott said she remained confident, however, that the West Lothian economy could absorb at least some of the Ethicon job losses.

“We’ve got members in the area who are recruiting at the moment so we’ll see if we can get any of these people jobs.

“There’s always a knock-on effect of any large closure on local shops and so on but it’s an area of high employment and we hope to get some of them into work.”

Modern-day Ethicon products include surgical staplers, endoscopic kits and Gynecare for women’s health.

In 2009, the company bought breast implant maker Mentor and in 2010, it acquired ear, nose and throat tech firm Acclarent.

Ethicon’s expansion continued in 2016 when it swallowed up NeuWave Medical.

A plaque honouring founder George F Merson still hangs in the Livingston factory.

Potential closure of the plant is the latest in a series of economic woes for West Lothian.

Car and truck firm British Leyland – known for brands Land Rover and Jaguar – shut its Bathgate factory in 1985.

In 2001, phone maker Motorola closed its Easter Inch site which at its peak employed 3100 people. And in 2012, Vion Food Group shut its Broxburn meat processing plant, blaming “unsustainable losses”.