450 jobs axed

HUNDREDS of factory workers are expected to lose their jobs after a major employer announced the closure of its Dagenham plant. Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis, formerly May & Baker, broke the news to their staff on Thursday November 5 that the site i

HUNDREDS of factory workers are expected to lose their jobs after a major employer announced the closure of its Dagenham plant.

Pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis, formerly May & Baker, broke the news to their staff on Thursday November 5 that the site in Rainham Road South will be closed by 2013.

The move will see manufacturing at the plant phased out and could leave as many as 457 redundant.

One employee of 26 years, who did not want to be named, said: "I was so upset and shocked when they announced it.

"I have a lot of friends down there. It has been my life really.

"The company is very much like a family to everyone; I started working there because my dad did, and other employees have uncles and cousins all working under one roof."

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It is thought the site will be home to the new Dagenham Community Hospital, although no firm plans have been announced.

Discussions are underway between Sanofi-Aventis and council bosses.

Dagenham MP, Jon Cruddas, spoke of his disappointment at the news this week and said he was in talks with Peter Mandelson, Minister for Business, Innovation and Skill, to help save manufacturing jobs and provide careers advice.

He said: "It is bad news that staff only heard about the closure as it was being announced publicly.

"And it is very worrying that at the strike of a pen somewhere abroad and with no consultation, people can lose their jobs."

Sanofi-Aventis said last week there had been a "significant decline" in demand for their products.

The company's patent of Taxotere, their biggest oncology drug, will expire in 2012 allowing other companies to manufacture their own competing versions.

"It is not a proposal that has been taken lightly by the company which understands the effect on its employees and their families" said Laura O'Brian, head of the Dagenham site.

"If people want to move we will do our very best, but realistically they are not always able to."

Employees will be offered the chance to relocate and continue working for Sanofi-Aventis at another site either in the UK or overseas.

And they will continue their training programmes which aim to help staff find new employment.

Despite the announcement of the closure all employees returned to work the following day. Ms O'Brian added: "I'm really pleased we've seen a real sense of community on the site."

Conservative candidate for Dagenham and Rainham, Simon Jones, said: "This closure directly impacts the community and leaves another void in the area."

The council said it was saddened by the closure.

Cllr Mick McCarthy, executive member for regeneration, said: ""We will do all we can to make sure that people are strongly supported in either getting a new job or participating in retraining.

"We will also work closely with Sanofi to ensure that in any redevelopment of the site we maximise the number of new jobs created.

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