Question mark over future of McBride’s Burnley factory

ANXIOUS workers at one of Burnley’s biggest employers are waiting to see if their factory will close as its parent company undergoes a major restructuring plan.

Robert McBride, which produces household cleaning products at a factory in Windermere Avenue as well as several other sites across Europe, is restructuring its business amid rising raw material costs and a fall in revenue.

McBride’s HR director Mr Malcolm Allan admitted the company was looking at all its sites and did not rule out closures, although he admitted Burnley’s was a busy factory.

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He said: “We have been undertaking a review of our group wide supply chain operation since the early part of the year. This was announced some time ago. It covers the whole of Europe and 17 manufacturing plants. We are still formulating our proposals from this review and it is premature to speculate on the outcome at this stage. This will take into account many factors and be looking at the future of our business and the best way for us to be structured. The Burnley site is busy at present but this is not always a factor in such decisions. The review may or may not result in proposals for factory closures. As soon as it is complete we always talk to our colleagues first to let them know the outcome.”

But worried workers contacted the Express this week to reveal their fears it is facing the axe, prompting Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle to throw his backing behind the town’s site.

“If this is true it would be disastrous for the town and all the people that work there including their families. I understand the Burnley site is McBride’s most profitable so to close it would make no sense at all in my opinion. It would be a tragedy and I would be devastated. The company makes household products – items the public will always buy.”

One worker who contacted the Express said employees were worried about the situation and revealed rumours were flying. “Workers are really concerned the factory is going to shut. It is one of Burnley’s biggest employers and a lot of people’s lives would be hit hard if McBride closed. A lot have worked here for many years and there is a really good atmosphere.”

If the factory were to close it would be a major loss to Burnley. McBride has employed generations of workers and was seen as one of Burnley’s strongest employers.

McBride recently published its Half Year Report for the six months ending December 31st 2010. Revenue from UK household retail products was down 2% compared with the previous year. It also reported a reduction in operating profit driven by increasing raw material costs.

Looking ahead, the report says “raw material price volatility and a weak retail environment are the key challenges for our business.”

The report goes on to say material costs in the second half of the year could increase by around £7m.

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McBride recently made acquisitions in the Czech Republic and Malaysia which have performed in line with expectations. The company also saw growth in its central and Eastern European factories, according to the report.