A BOLTON steel firm’s £80 million contract for one of London’s tallest buildings has brought vital job security to hundreds of workers — and boosted the town’s economy.

Watson Steel Structures, based in Lostock , is making 18,000 tonnes of steelwork for the Leadenhall Building in the City of London, nicknamed the Cheesegrater.

The 47-storey, wedgeshaped tower is being built near the Lloyds of London building and will be 737 ft high.

Much of the main steelwork is on its outside and is covered in special fire-resistant paint made in Bolton The complicated work saw Watson recruit an extra 20 staff, taking the total Lostock workforce to 340.

Peter Miller, the site’s director, said: “Leadenhall involves 600,000 man-hours of work — which equates to 300 man-years of our staff.

“On top of that there is also work being undertaken by sub-contractors and painters.

“We’re working with our sister-firms in the North East and Belfast. The steelwork is being fabricated here, transported to St Helens for painting and then taken to the London site.

“We began the work last winter and it will keep us busy into the first quarter of next year.

“It’s been very welcome in a challenging economy. The steelwork’s paint is made by Leighs Paints, so this work helps other Bolton business too.”

Welder Steven Carney, aged 50, said: “This is a huge job which the whole area benefits from, including sandwich shops and pubs.

“A lot of firms gave up on training over the years but we’ve got the men to do it.

Ours are the best — that’s why we get these big jobs .

“I’ve worked here, on and off, for 35 years. My dad and grandad worked here too.”

Ryan Gilston, aged 17, from Lostock, a former Rivington and Blackrod High School pupil, is an apprentice plater.

He said: “I’m on a four-year apprenticeship which includes going to Alliance Learning at Horwich once a week and learning about CAD computer design.”

Works manager Mick Mather, aged 59, added: “Steel fabrication has changed a lot over the years and architecture has worked its way down to the shopfloor. More than £500,000 has been invested in adapting one of the bays for this work.”

Away from Leadenhall, Watson has some work making extension steel for London’s Tate Modern gallery and a concert hall in Paris.