MORE than 200 hi-tech jobs are to be lost after international health equipment manufacturer Smiths Medical announced it is shutting its Haslingden factory.

The 30-year-old St Crispin Way complex will close by the end of July.

The decision was announced to shocked workers at a meeting yesterday morning.

Rossendale Borough Council leader Alyson Barnes described the decision as ‘a tragedy, absolutely dreadful news’.

The US-based firm is moving production of equipment, including syringes, needles, pressure monitoring devices and chemotherapy accessories, to its plant at Hranice in the Czech Republic.

The move will cost the jobs of 150 permanent staff and 60 contract workers.

A Smiths Medical International spokesman said: “We have announced to the workforce that we are closing our Haslingden factory.

“This is a sad day. It was not a decision taken lightly.

“The move to the Czech Republic is because the factory is closer to the markets we mainly supply in Europe at a time when all healthcare providers are cutting costs.

“We are doing all we can to find our staff alternative jobs. This will be our main focus before the planned closure of the plant at the end of July.”

The firm retains two other UK plants at Watford and Luton.

Mike Damms, chief executive of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “At a time when we have seen some jobs growth locally, this is bad news.

“These are the sort of hi-tech manufacturing jobs we want to be gaining not losing.”

Coun Barnes said: “This is a tragedy for the workforce and the local community.

“It is absolutely dreadful news.

“They are hi-tech manufacturing jobs of the kind we need to keep and get more of.

“It is a real loss to the borough and the workforce.

“The council will do all it can to help find the staff alternative jobs.”

Haslingden MP Graham Jones said: “I am really disappointed that Smith Medical is closing its Haslingden factory with the loss of 210 jobs.

“I am also disappointed that there was no union presence there to represent staff at a strategic level.

“Union representation is a way to prevent companies cutting costs by transferring operations to Eastern Europe.”