Unite the union member Trevor Hall accuses Dursley engineering firm Lister Petter of "letting staff down"
6:00am Thursday 27th March 2014 in News By Daniel Chipperfield, senior reporter covering Dursley, Cam, Wotton-under-Edge, Sharpness, Slimbridge, Berkeley, Coaley, Uley, North Nibley, Stinchcombe and Cambridge
A UNION leader representing staff made redundant at Lister Petter which faces administration has slammed the firm’s management for its poor handling of the business.
The diesel engine-producing company, which has presided in Dursley for over 140 years and employed 5,000 people at its height faces liquidation unless it finds a buyer soon.
Around 29 employees at the ailing engineering firm have been made redundant since CBA Insolvency Practitioners was brought in to deal with the crisis on Thursday last week.
The debt-ridden business had already made around 77 staff redundant in the last few months but it has seemingly not been enough to keep the company afloat.
While the Leicester-based insolvency firm is filing a notice to the courts applying to take Lister Petter into administration tomorrow, scores of staff have already been filling in their redundancy application forms.
They will have to seek redundancy payments from the Government as the company cannot afford it.
UNITE the Union regional officer Trevor Hall, who also worked at Lister Petter in the 70s and lives in Dursley, said it was a terrible shame for the people of the town.
He is highly critical of the current management and blames the company's predicament on them.
“Over the last three years there has been a decline,” he said.
“You have to run the business pretty badly with such a strong order book to get into this kind of trouble.”
Mr Hall told the Gazette the administrator had said the company’s £20million order book could be attractive to potential buyers but the huge amount of debt could also put them off.
He estimated that there were around 100 employees left, 65 of which are shop floor workers and about 90 per cent are UNITE members.
He told the Gazette the majority were able to walk to the Dursley factory but may struggle to find another job nearby.
“They feel let down by the company,” he said.
“They are very disillusioned and are worried about their futures and their families.
“These are not highly paid people but they are highly skilled and have done a good job for a long time in difficult circumstances.
“They have taken pain for the good of the company and I do not think they have been rewarded very well.”
Mr Hall added that the union was keen to help in talks with any potential buyers.
“If somebody could save it they could have a good future there,” he said.
“The union and the workforce would work with anybody that would come in as long as they are fair to the staff.
“It would be absolutely devastating to the town if it goes under.
“It was bad enough that they were moving to Hardwicke but the actual thought of going out of business all together is devastating.”
Leader of Stroud District Council (SDC) and Dursley Cllr Geoff Wheeler said the news was “extremely regrettable” but did not come as a surprise.
The former Dursley mayor said the council’s offer to finance the firm’s move to a purpose-built facility in Hardwicke at the cost of around £100,000 was now off.
“We wait to see the outcome now the company is in administration but we have been preparing for the worst, with our partner agencies, so that we can help employees and mitigate against the fallout from such situations,” he said.
“Protecting jobs in the district is a priority and we had plans in place to help Lister Petter move to new premises and achieve this aim, but under the current circumstances we would just be pouring money into a black hole.”
Earlier this month SDC set up a task force to address the issue of job losses in Cam, Dursley and Berkeley.
Stroud MP Neil Carmichael, who has requested a meeting with Lister Petter directors to offer his support, has blamed the now defunct South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) for the company’s current position.
SWRDA bought the land at Lister Petter for £15million in 2000 and set about redeveloping the area with developers St Modwen.
When SWRDA was abolished in 2012, the land was transferred to Stroud District Council but Mr Carmichael has criticised the agency for not catering for Lister Petter on the new site and instead focused on housing.
He described it as a “disastrous intervention, effectively thwarting opportunities for modernisation and investment”.
“Mercifully the SWRDA was abolished by the coalition government – although sadly it was too late for Lister Petter,” he said.
“I will do all I can to help ensure that further opportunities in engineering and manufacturing are created within the area.”
But his comments have been slammed by Mr Hall and former Stroud MP David Drew, who was involved in helping the firm when it first went into administration in 2003.
“It has been one of the saddest weeks I have ever known. We worked so hard to keep the firm going,” he said.
“The work force did what they did best and found a way out with the move to the facility at Hardwicke and then to get the news that they have gone into administration, it is very upsetting.
“I thought Neil Carmichael’s remarks were very insensitive because the RDA stepped in to save the company and save the jobs the last time.”
Mr Drew said staff were “shell-shocked and frustrated” and was surprised at the quick decision by the administrator to axe jobs.
“These are the jobs that give the company a future and I am not sure why the administrator is so quick to take action when they do give the company a future,” he said.
“Our thoughts are with all the employees and their families who will be affected,” she said.
Lister Petter and have not responded to the Gazette’s requests for a comment.
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