‘WE WANT OUR JOBS BACK!’ – McAlpin sacked workers tell John Lewis

Sacked Stead McAlpin and Birtwistle workers outside John Lewis offices in London yesterday
Sacked Stead McAlpin and Birtwistle workers outside John Lewis offices in London yesterday

A COACHLOAD of sacked workers from Stead McAlpin and J H Birtwistle factories, formerly owned by John Lewis, yesterday lobbied the John Lewis Partnership headquarters in London.

The factories in Carlisle and Rossendale, Lancashire, were both sold off to Apex Textiles in 2007.

Workers were sacked at both factories on April 1.

Ex-Unite branch chair at Stead McAlpin, Alan McDermott, told News Line outside John Lewis Partnership’s head office in Victoria: ‘We’ve travelled to London.

‘We want John Lewis to take notice of our demonstration and take responsibility for their actions.

‘As a direct result of the John Lewis management board, and in particular managing director Andy Street, we find ourselves in the unenviable position of being jobless and eventually, in the more severe cases, homeless.

‘We are demanding John Lewis take responsibility for the situation we are in and do the honourable thing.’

Unite member and ex-Stead McAlpin worker Steve Weatherill said: ‘It’s quite shocking the way we’ve been treated.

‘We expected to be looked after by John Lewis after 20 years’ service.

‘I want the union to get us what I believe we are being robbed of by John Lewis.

‘We want our John Lewis conditions and compensation honoured.

‘We were promised this for two years after the factory was sold off.’

Former shop steward at the Carlisle factory, Chris Oates, told News Line: ‘We need to talk to John Lewis.

‘They are never going to come and talk to us so we’ve come down to their head office in London.

‘We are hoping to meet one of the John Lewis directors to ask him to honour the redundancy package that was promised to us 18 months ago.

‘We were promised we would keep the John Lewis terms and conditions for two years, including enhanced redundancy pay, following the sell-off to Apex Textiles.

‘We believe John Lewis set up Apex Textiles to put us in the position we are in now, sacked without proper compensation.’

Unite shop steward Bryan Dudley said: ‘I’m one of those still working at Stead McAlpin.

‘We believe it is only a matter of weeks before the whole factory closes and this has been the John Lewis plan from day one.

‘Chris Oates added: ‘The union said they could do nothing about the sell-off as it was all done legally.’

Michael Tomlinson, a sacked worker from J H Birtwistle in Rossendale, said: ‘We used to do weaving and Stead McAlpin used to print on cloth.

‘Half of our workers have gone, as they have at Stead’s.

‘We got nothing, not even 90 days’ notice.

‘I got told at 1.50pm and at 2.00pm I was finished.

‘That’s what happened to another 62 workers as well.

‘If your name got called out, you went. That’s how bad it was – no dignity, no nothing.

‘The union did not come in till Monday and we were sacked on the Friday.

‘All the union is doing is fighting for my full redundancy pay.’

Another sacked Birtwistle worker, Unite member Eric Henderson, added: ‘John Lewis called us partners.

‘But when it came to it, they sold us out and the new company sacked us.’

• ‘We are still picketing all the gates, we’re sticking it out,’ sacked Visteon worker Chris Price told News Line at the Enfield factory on Friday.

He added: ‘We are determined to get the money we are owed. The money Visteon offered on Thursday is insulting.

‘We want Unite to get round the table with Ford and Visteon and sort something out.’

The Enfield plant’s Unite deputy convenor Piers Hood said: ‘After the insulting pay-off offer we are ever more determined to see this through to a victory for us.

‘We intend to get Ford and Visteon to pay us the full redundancy we were promised.

‘Ford said we would keep our Ford terms and conditions for life and we intend to hold them to that promise.

‘We will not let anything go out of the place, whether parts or tools, until we reach a satisfactory settlement.’

Unite convenor Kevin Nolan said: ‘I spoke to John McGuire in Belfast and Frank Jepson in Basildon today.

‘We are all agreed that we are going to carry on until Ford and Visteon do the honourable thing and pay us our full redundancy.’