Former Lurgan textiles firm now based in India 'paying average £8,270 salaries'

Turnover at textiles manufacturing business Union Street (Lurgan) rose to nearly £39 million last year
Gary McDonald Business Editor

IT'S one of the oldest and most traditional industries in Ireland... and it seems there's still money in textiles, so long as you shift production to a low-cost region like Asia.

Textiles manufacturing business Union Street (Lurgan), whose registered address is at Clarendon Dock in Belfast, revealed that its turnover rose more than 13 per cent to £38.98 million in the year to April 30 last.

Operating profit was generally flat (up from £2.1m to £2.2m), though after tax profit shrunk from £2.7m to just over £800,000 due to a deferred tax asset of £1.14m in the previous year in respect of accumulates losses at sister company WFB Baird Ltd.

Union Street (Lurgan) was newly registered in mid-2014 and then acquired a number of subsidiary businesses in October 2014.

As well as owning some Northern Ireland based subsidiaries, it is a majority shareholder in other companies in the USA, Ireland, Estonia, Poland and India.

The company - whose roots can be traced to the halcyon days of the linen trade in Co Armagh, is primarily now involved in weaving, dyeing and finishing of linen and linen cotton fabrics, for sale to the clothing sector.

But in recent years it has shifted its centre of production from Northern Ireland and Europe to India, where its staff costs are a fraction of what they would be at home.

According to its account the company - whose controlling shareholder and lead director is William Baird (61) - significantly increased its staff numbers during the year from 510 to 653, including adding more than 120 manual workers at its factories in India.

As a result, the wages will rose from £4.3m to just over £5.4m.

But on a crude basis, that makes the average salary just £8,270 - less than a third of that in the UK.

Nearly 90 per cent of Union Street's sales were outside either the UK or Europe, the accounts show.

Meanwhile subsidiary company WFB Baird, which was once based in Lurgan and specialised in the fine end of the linen trade (cambrics, sheers, corded linen handkerchiefs etc), saw its turnover decline over the year from £8.4m to £7.9m.

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