Mine craft may return to Wigan

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A WORLD-famous firm could bring manufacturing back to Wigan – and with it hundreds of jobs.

Joy Global moved production of heavy duty mining machinery to its sister plants in Worcester and Nottinghamshire more than 20 years ago.

But now it looks like main production could be returning to its roots and deliver a major boost to the borough economy.

The shock decision to decamp from Ince delivered a hammer blow to Wigan in the early 1990s, as Joy Global left only a small research and development department, plus payroll and administration staff, at the giant former Gullick Dobson site in Seaman Way. Most of the sprawling site is now leased off to other firms as the Dobson Park Industrial Estate.

However, the main Gullicks production areas, because of their size and shape, have remained largely unused ever since.

Now the company has unveiled outline plans – investigated by the Evening Post as recently as last month – to return its manufacturing base to Wigan – the spiritual home of the hydraulic advancing roof support and “longwall face” cutting systems which are the bedrock of modern coal mining worldwide.

The firm today remaining tight-lipped about the Ince plans and there was no-one available to give a comment at the time of going to press.

Calls to the Ince works were relayed back to head office instead.

But, in a statement to the workforce at its Pinxton plant near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, explaining the proposed closure of the Joy plant as part of a company re-organisation, shop stewards were told that manufacturing is being moved back to Seaman Way and the Worcester site.

A spokesman for the GMB union at the Pinxton works said: “Following the announcement to the workforce on March 6, that Joy Global propose to close the Pinxton facility and transfer services to the sites at Worcester and Wigan, GMB Trade Union have entered into a 45-day consultation period with the company to discuss ways in which to mitigate the number of redundancies.”

Earlier in the year the Post was told by a senior source at the council that up to 200 jobs could be set to return to Ince.

One of the reasons the firm is said to be considering the move back to Wigan is the ready supply of engineering students from Wigan and Leigh College plus the new Wigan UTC.

In its heyday in the late 1960s and ’70s the plant employed more than 2,000 staff and had an apprenticeship scheme which was the envy of much of heavy industry.

Today Britain only has three deep pits still operational after systematic closures since the 1970s.

But Joy Global remains a significant force in heavy industry because of the massive export demand in growing mining markets in, principally, China, South Africa and Eastern Europe.