THE Spanboard factory at Castleroe last week announced it had begun consultation with its employees regarding the future of its operation in Coleraine.
The company employs 19 people at its melamine laminate fabrication and distribution operation and supplies finished products to companies in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Spanboard Products Ltd, part of the Sonae Industria Group, has operated in Coleraine since 1989. Prior to that, it was known as the Ulster Chipboard Company, and has operated on the same site for over 50 years.
The business shed 105 jobs in February 2009, leaving just 25 employees.
At the time management blamed the economic downturn, reduced order books and increasing overheads as the reason for the job losses.
In a statement, William Laverty, Operations Manager of Spanboard Products Ltd told The Coleraine Times: “The decision to enter into consultation has been taken in the face of increasing costs and shrinking margins in an industry that is still very deep in recession.
“It will be of little consolation, but at this difficult time, I would personally like to thank our loyal workforce for their hard work and dedication. We have commenced talks with Union representatives, and will be focusing on talking to our employees, customers and suppliers regarding the next steps.”
The company declined to comment on whether the plant would close entirely in advance of the consultation.
Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín, says the rights of the workforce at Spanboard must be central to any consultation.
Mr Ó hOisín said: “I am deeply concerned over the notification by Spanboard Products Limited that a consultation is being carried out over the future of the factory. I am afraid that this factory will close in the immediate future with the workforce being made redundant.
“The factory has operated in Coleraine under various names for over 50 years so it will be a blow to the local economy if it were to close.
“I am calling on the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Arlene Foster to engage with Spanboard to see if there is any available help that would save these jobs.”
Sonae Indústria is one of the largest wood based panel producers in the world. The product range includes particleboard, MDF, hardboard, Oriented Strand Board, production and sales of value added products and services - components, solutions and systems - for the furniture, building, decoration and DIY industries.
The company also delivers production of high pressure decorative laminates and production of chemical products - formaldehyde and formaldehyde based resins.