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The night sky is illuminated with the blazing fires and vibrant lights of three chemical plants that overpower the borough of Halton, Cheshire. Originally famous for its cargo ports, the area gradually became a center for industrialisation, as the area increasingly grew under the booming trade of the ICI (Imperial Chemical Industry). However, once the community became more dependent on the plant for employment, its dangers and increasing suspicions of gross failings became apparent.This eventually lead to a


devastating mass redundancy at the turn of the century, which took the livelihood of thousands.


For almost a 100 years, the ICI kept employment within the families of its community and rarely offered work to outsiders. This symbiosis was a good technique to keep a level of trust and security between employees and the company. The company provided housing, good pensions and strong salaries for what was believed to be almost 5,000 workers and


their immediate families.


“We were all aware of the dangerous chemicals we worked with, but it became second nature to us. I enjoyed working for the ICI, it felt secure, well, that is until I was made redundant,” said former employee Billy Jackson.


Employees were obliged to have a number of creams containing magnesium salt solutions and quaternary ammonium compounds, if any possible symptoms, like burning sensations or rashes should appear at home. The three chemical plants worked together through using each


in quarries scattered around the district. This was then covered up and sites were tested regularly for any toxic leaks. Many of these occurred over the years, which resulted in a host of lawsuits that contributed to large financial losses by the ICI.


“WE WERE ALL AWARE OF THE


DANGEROUS CHEMICALS WE WORKED WITH, BUT IT BECAME SECOND NATURE TO US. I ENJOYED WORKING FOR THE ICI, IT FELT SECURE, WELL, THAT IS UNTIL I WAS MADE REDUNDANT”


The company eventually sold the Runcorn plant at the turn of the century for a staggering £505 million to Ineos, a privately owned chemical business. In the period leading up to the sale massive redundancies were made. Some walked away with generous handouts depending on their status, age and time spent at the company, while others were dismissed with minimal compensation.


Workers were in constant contact with some of the most dangerous chemicals known to man. These included alkalis, known for causing cancer, and hydrogen fluoride, which can seep through the skin and turn bones to chalk.


other’s by-products, in order to cut down on the amount of toxic waste that had to be disposed of. Despite it being an environmentally friendly idea, in reality, masses of highly toxic waste still remained to be disposed of and were dumped


The golden handshake is a generous handout of up to four times the worker’s annual income. As a chemical engineer, John Glynn was high up in the pecking order. After 40 years of work, a redundancy at the right moment in time amounted to a ‘golden handshake.’ With this compensation he has managed


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