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Black week as hundreds of jobs at risk in Bideford

PUBLISHED: 11:00 23 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:36 25 January 2013

TE Connectivity in Bideford, formerly known as Tyco, has announced the Bideford site will be closing by the end of the year.

TE Connectivity in Bideford, formerly known as Tyco, has announced the Bideford site will be closing by the end of the year.

Archant

The town is left in shock after factory announced proposed closure and other employers talk of redundancies.

"We should be using the town’s close ties with America to our advantage and persuading them they are going to be losing a skilled workforce."

Councillor David Brenton

HUNDREDS of jobs in Bideford have been placed in jeopardy after one of the town’s biggest employers announced proposals to close its East-the-Water factory.

And it might not be the last of the bad news as other Bideford based employers, including Asda and Tarka Housing, have confirmed possible job losses.

TE Connectivity, formerly known as Tyco, confirmed on Thursday that it had started a 90-day consultation period with employees at the Bideford site.

In a statement, the company said it was relocating its manufacturing to other sites in order to “maximise efficiencies” – with the result of around 250 job losses.

"The loss of one job in Torridge is a disaster to the individual – this is a disaster which will cause a ripple effect throughout the district."

Councillor Phil Collins, Torridge’s lead member for the economy

But Tim Jones, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said the number of people out of a job was more likely to be around 300.

He said: “We’re waiting for the final details, but there are also around 25 subcontractors who have become part and parcel of the company because they have been there for such a long time.

“It looks like at the moment, subject to the 90-day consultation, there’s a strong indication that August might be when it closes down.

“This will leave a skeleton staff of around 40 people who will be dealing with closing down and dismantling the machines until March 2014.”

‘Huge blow’ for the area

Local MP for Torridge and West Devon, Geoffrey Cox, said: “It’s deeply dismaying and of profound concern.

“There is still a lot to find out, but clearly if the factory does close then it will be a huge blow for the area.”

As well as the job losses from TE Connectivity, the Gazette received an anonymous call saying Asda Bideford would be making redundancies.

A spokesman for Asda said it was consulting with unions and colleagues on a “simplified management structure”.

When asked if that meant the possibility of redundancies at the Bideford store in the future, the spokesman said: “We are proposing a simplified management structure in 32 of 564 stores.

“This means some of the management roles in our stores will change.

“We are now consulting all colleagues affected and no decision will be made until this process is complete.

“However, our intention is that we will redeploy these colleagues into existing roles, minimising job losses.”

Tarka Housing in Bideford has also offered six maintenance employees voluntary redundancy and made two part-time administrative roles redundant.

Managing director Nigel Barnard said: “This is due to the successful completion of the five-year maintenance programme to upgrade Tarka’s homes, leaving less day to day repairs.

“While day to day repairs have diminished, looking to the future, Tarka Works will be undertaking maintenance across Devon and Cornwall and we expect this area of the business to grow in the longer term.”

The administrators had been made redundant “to allow for more staff to work in the community with those most affected”, he said.

Responding to the announcement by TE Connectivity, Bideford mayor Councillor Simon Inch said: “I’m very sorry to hear this.

“It’s one of the biggest employers within the town and it’s going to be quite a hit. It’s devastating for the workforce and the families involved.”

‘Defeatist attitude’

But Councillor David Brenton, a town and district councillor for Bideford, said he was disappointed at the “defeatist” attitude he had seen.

He said: “You just don’t roll over in front of these big companies and let them get away with it.

“They’re making a healthy profit and we should be standing up and fighting for our jobs.

“I think the senior members of Torridge District Council should fly out to Pennsylvania, where the company’s headquarters are, and pull out the stops.

“We should be using the town’s close ties with America to our advantage and persuading them they are going to be losing a skilled workforce.”

Mr Jones said the Devon and Cornwall Business Council were looking at all possible options to retain the skilled workforce in the area.

He said: “We have to work extremely hard and rapidly to see what we can do to control the damage and fill the extreme void this will leave.

“We want to keep this skilled workforce in Northern Devon, so we are looking at the possibility of how we can supplement existing companies and ideas of self-employment as well.

“I don’t want to speculate or raise expectations, but another option could be looking at some sort of corporate deal if the owners are up for it.”

Torridge District Council has said it will do everything it can to help those affected by the redundancies.

Councillor Roger Johnson, deputy leader of the council, said: “I have been made redundant myself in the past and I know how horrible it is.

“This is really bad news for Bideford, especially when it is the people we know and love.

“Some employers say there is a lack of skilled workers available locally. Hopefully we can get some of them together and match up some of those who are about to lose their jobs with their own skill shortages.”

Councillor Phil Collins, Torridge’s lead member for the economy, said: “The loss of one job in Torridge is a disaster to the individual – this is a disaster which will cause a ripple effect throughout the district. It’s a huge loss to the local

economy.”

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