Pottery giant Steelite International has extended its coronavirus-related factory shutdown for a second time – meaning employees will not return to work until July.
Last week, the Middleport company announced it was extending its factory closure for a further two weeks meaning its 650-strong workforce would not be required to go back until at least May 4.
But now staff at the Orme Street factory and at Steelite’s Cross 50 warehouse facility at Lymedale Business Park have been told they will remain on furlough leave until July 1.
In a statement posted on Steelite’s website, group HR director Louise Griffin said: “Further to previous communications and due to the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic and the Government’s extension of both the lockdown to mid-May and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to end of June, the UK operation in the main will not be reopening until July 1, 2020.
“As you will be aware, our global business has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, as has the entire hospitality industry of which we serve.
“As regions in each country across the globe move through this challenging period, we are constantly reviewing our continued operations to ensure we can respond appropriately to market demands.
“As the need to support essential businesses rise, we have taken steps to offer limited service to our customers. We have a core team of individuals that continue to work from home across the globe.
“The Steelite UK distribution centre is currently dispatching twice weekly, and we will look to add additional days in the coming weeks as we see increased demand.
“We will shortly be bringing in a team to ensure our facility is ready to reopen in a safe manner and in line with social distancing and workplace guidance currently in place.
“As we continue to navigate the challenges posed by Covid-19, our number one priority is the health, safety, and wellbeing of our employees, we’ll be taking all the necessary steps with the latest guidelines and protocol set forth by the UK Government to ensure a safe and healthy working environment.”
It is not yet known what will happen in relation to the annual Potters shutdown which runs from June 28 to July 13.
Dr Laura Cohen, Chief Executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, said: “Ceramic manufacturers, like many others, are facing huge challenges in operating safely and in some cases with much reduced customer demand through the current coronavirus pandemic.
“Several larger companies, such as Steelite, have chosen to extend planned shutdowns and furlough staff because their customer demand has been reduced.
“However, some companies in other parts of the ceramic sector where there is strong customer demand, or where demand is picking up now, are manufacturing in line with social distancing guidelines.
“Through our regular dialogue with government and other organisations, we are working hard to support our members in accessing all the help that is available to get them through these challenging times.”