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Burberry Factory Closure Leads to Demonstrations

Demonstrators marched outside five Burberry stores in the U.S. and U.K. on Wednesday to protest the closing of a South Wales factory that makes polo shirts for the British label and employs about 310 workers.

Demonstrators marched outside five Burberry stores in the U.S. and U.K. on Wednesday to protest the closing of a South Wales factory that makes polo shirts for the British label and employs about 310 workers.

The protesters appeared outside stores in London, Paris, New York, Las Vegas and Chi­cago and handed out fliers urging consumers to “stop Burberry exporting our jobs and its credibility to China.”

The Burberry plant in Treorchy, South Wales, is scheduled to close at the end of next month. Burberry made the decision after a 12-month review of its supply chain and operations concluded the facility was not commercially viable.

A Burberry spokeswoman said a three-month extension already had been granted to give workers more time to look for employment. She added that 180 of them were still searching for jobs in the area, and that Burberry has identified more than 250 vacancies at nearby companies. The spokeswoman also said the South Wales jobs will not be outsourced solely to China. They will be consolidated among four Burberry factories in Poland, Portugal, Spain and Hong Kong that already make polo shirts, she said.

In Manhattan, about 20 protesters outside the East 57th Street store chanted “Keep Burberry British,” and circled the sidewalk near the entrance holding handmade signs for about 30 minutes during an ice storm. Four security guards and a New York police officer watched.

Paul Gage of the trade union GMB, whose members are employed at the South Wales factory, arrived with other plant workers to take part in the demonstration. “They’re putting profits before people,” he said. “People’s livelihoods are at stake. And they’ve just announced record profits for the past two quarters.…Three hundred jobs is a lot to a community.”

Burberry has pledged to donate the value of the site — $1.92 million at current exchange rates — to the local community, the spokeswoman said. As a sign of the brand’s commitment to Britain, almost half of its 4,650-person global workforce is employed there, she added.

This story first appeared in the February 15, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.