Leaderflush talks offer little hope for workers

Joseph Bulmer

Few signs of salvation as meetings continue

WEEK-long talks with factory bosses and union reps have offered little hope of reprieve for around 95 Leaderflush Shapland workers facing redundancy.

Fifty workers at the Barnstaple door-making firm are set to go at the end of May with the remainder due to finish work at the end of September “at the earliest”.

On Monday, Leaderflush Shapland commercial director Robert Llewellyn confirmed that 55 sales, commercial and specialist support staff would remain in the Barnstaple area and that the company was looking for new offices in the town.

Leaderflush owners SIG Group announced proposals to transfer manufacturing to Nottingham just hours after the Gazette reported that the company had sold part of its Anchorwood Bank site to supermarket firm Asda.

Staff were told of the news of at special briefing on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr Llewellyn said: “It is with considerable regret to confirm that the company is proposing a phased transfer of manufacturing undertaken on site here at Barnstaple to the headquarters in Nottingham.

“We can confirm that the sales, commercial and specialist support functions are not affected, and will be retained in the Barnstaple area.

“The business would like to make it clear, that Leaderflush Shapland will be maintaining a presence within the local vicinity and is actively working with the local council to establish alternative accommodation within the area for the long-term.”

Mr Llewellyn said that the consultation process with trade union and employee representatives had provided a “small number” of new opportunities based at Barnstaple and that redundancy packages beyond the statutory minimum had been agreed for those directly affected by the transfer to Nottingham.

“Company representatives are now in the process of securing outplacement support for those that will unfortunately be a casualty from the redundancy process,” he said.

“We will be working with the council as we did in 2009 to set up a support day to offer career advice and information on CV writing, interview technique and setting up a small business.

“Clearly this is an extremely sensitive and emotional time for all involved and the management team recognises the need and urgency for clarity. As a result we will continue to liaise with the trade union officials and employees to discuss the implications, alternatives and timings related to this proposal.”

In May 2009, the door manufacturer had to shed 134 jobs from its Barnstaple site but in March last year, things started to look more positive when it was announced that some product lines were being moved to North Devon.

Kevin Norman, GMB Regional Organiser said Wednesday’s announcement had come as a “shock” to staff.

“They have been dismayed the decision has been made because they believed they had been quite busy,” he told the Gazette.

“Having gone through the redundancy consultation last year, those staff remaining had thought they were safe.

“They have been busy, the work has been coming in but the company has decided to ship its operation to the North of England.

“It will be devastating for the whole area; Leaderflush Shapland is the second largest employer in the town.

“They are not likely to find jobs very easily because local unemployment in the area is quite high anyway.”

Leader of North Devon Council Des Brailey said it was a “very sad day” for Barnstaple and North Devon.

“It’s 150 years of specialist manufacturing gone,” he said.

“It will have an effect on the local economy and more importantly, the families of those people who are going to lose their jobs.

“The only slight chink of light at the end of the tunnel is that some admin jobs will stay in the area and North Devon Council will do all it can to work closely with the company to secure some future for them in North Devon.

“We will be pulling a team together to help those people who have lost their jobs and ensure they have the best access to the agencies that can offer benefits, career and training advice.”