Staff morale at Allan Brothers is at rock bottom following last week’s announcement that up to 68 jobs could be axed.
That is the view of John Cosgrove, regional organiser of UCATT (Union of Construction Allied Trades and Technicians).
“Our members are very low at the moment but also feel that this has been coming for a long time,” said Mr Cosgrove, whose visit to Berwick on Monday coincided with Workers Memorial Day (see page 14).
He has pointed the finger of blame squarely at management for the company’s predicament.
“Production at this factory went up by nine per cent last year but they’re still losing money which tells you something,” he said. “The men are paying the price for bad management.”
The Tweedmouth-based timber firm is considering transferring production of some of its price sensitive, commodity window casement products to its sister plant in Poland.
But Mr Cosgrove said: “Transferring work to Poland is the cheap option but we’re putting forward a strong argument to management for keeping the jobs here.”
A formal 30-day consultation process is now underway which managing director Danny Hughes has admitted could lead to compulsory and voluntary redundancies at the woodyard. However, a decision will only be made and announced at the end of this period.
The company says restructuring is needed to meet the fast growing trend for higher levels of imports from eastern Europe in certain products which has resulted in lost volumes and earnings over the last three years.
It is therefore considering utlising capacity at its Polish plant to improve competitiveness, whilst indicating that future investment at the Berwick plant would enable it to focus on high-value crafted products.
It is also due to open a new 440 sq m showroom and office facility in the south east of England later this month to take advantage of the buoyancy in that region. This showroom will become a hub for an expanded sales team.
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith said: “The prospect of so many job losses at Allan Brothers is a serious concern for Berwick and especially those who may be affected and I hope the company will listen to any counter-proposals which are put forward.
“The news that the company is to invest in new technology for the plant here is a clear indication that there is a future for the business in Berwick and I hope that this could mean more jobs being created in the long term.”
Allan Brothers, founded in Berwick in 1811, is one of Britain’s longest established window and door specialists. It was acquired by Swedish-based Inwido Group in 2009. It currently employs around 150 people at its Ord Road factory.