The Levi’s factory in Dundee which made a million pairs of jeans every week


Levi Strauss began her 30-year association with Dundee in 1972 when she opened her first factory at Kilspindie Road in the Dunsinane industrial area.

The company itself traces its history back to 1873 when Levi Strauss created the jeans brand that still belongs to the descendants of his family.

Originally employing just over 100 people in Dundee, the San Francisco-based company expanded its operations throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including opening a temporary cutting plant at Baldovie Industrial Estate, before moving in 1982 to its factory overlooking Dunsinane Avenue and Coupar Angus Road. , where all production operations were brought together under one roof.

Sewers occupied at Levi Strauss’ Dundee plant in 1979.

At its peak in the mid-1990s, nearly 600 people worked there and a million pairs of jeans left the factory every week.

It is well known that nimble fingers were essential in dealing with thread breaks in factories and this particular skill was also appreciated when hand-assembling precision watches at Timex or sewing iconic Levi jeans.

This is why the Levi’s factory was mainly made up of women.

Factory workers surrounded by sewing machines at the Kilspindie Road factory in 1979.

They were touted by the company as some of the best employees in the world as the company expanded operations across Scotland and increased its workforce by over 2,000 people with new jobs in Dundee, Whitburn and Bellshill.

It didn’t end there, apparently, as it’s also been said that when they point in, the Levi’s girls also know how to party – no one partied as loud as a Levi’s girl, apparently.

The remarkable accomplishments of the Dundee factory community engagement team have been widely praised for their charitable work, which has enabled employees to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for countless good causes.

Operators are busy in the factory which celebrated its 10th anniversary in Dundee in 1983.

The CI team in Dundee was formed in 1978 and has supported a variety of groups ranging from local Scout troops to refurbishing retirement homes.

And the workforce celebrated when Levi’s announced in 1996 that it would reward its employees with an additional year’s pay bonus at the turn of the millennium, provided sales and performance targets production in the world are achieved.

At the time, hundreds of workers from the Dundee factory were taken by bus to the Odeon Cinema at Stack Amusement Park to see a film showing them how they each stood in line for a one-off bonus.

American Independence Day celebrations at the Levi’s factory in 1987.

Once there, they were told how they could receive an average of £ 14,000 each in 2001, if financial targets were met worldwide.

The staff were over the moon and planning what to do with the money.

However, the warning signs began to appear almost immediately when the global denim market declined, with management announcing several downsizing programs involving cuts in production and plant staff over the past five years. .

Wendy Farquharson and Margaret Dodds were among the staff who have done so much for good causes over the years.

In 1999, then Enterprise Minister Henry McLeish visited Levi Strauss’ bosses in San Francisco to clarify the future of the company’s factories in Scotland.

A series of cutbacks had reduced Dundee’s workforce to less than 500.

Later that year, Levi’s unplugged its Whitburn plant and downsized Bellshill, which sparked grim speculation about the long-term future of the Dundee plant.

Some of the latest jeans ever produced at Levi’s Dundee factory.

Workers were dismayed to learn they would miss out on the Millennium Bonus after the company failed to meet its $ 7.6 billion targets.

The company’s US bosses blamed UK production problems in part on the influx of inexpensive Levi 501 jeans into supermarkets, including Tesco, which imported them from Mexico and sold them for as much as £ 20 less than the recommended retail price.

The factory closed permanently in 2002 with the loss of 462 jobs which was the result of a need to reduce production costs in a “difficult economic climate”.

Workers last left the factory in April 2002.

The GMB union recommended acceptance of the negotiated layoff plan after an independent report by Professor Robert van der Meer, of the Business School at Strathclyde University, confirmed Levi’s own findings that there is no had no alternative to closing the Dundee and Bellshill factories.

Frank Ross, Director of Procurement for Levi Strauss Europe, Africa and Middle East said: “We deeply regret the need to close these factories, but hope this package will help compensate our employees for their loyalty and the difficulties this decision will result. “

There was no bitterness, no recrimination, and unlike some industries, the loss of Levi’s left only fond memories.

The staff marked their last day at the factory with champagne.

A champagne finish as the staff mark the last day at the factory.

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