160 laid-off Perkins staff are escorted out

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IT was the moment they had been dreading.

IT was the moment they had been dreading.More than 160 staff at manufacturing giant Perkins Engines, in Eastern Industry, have been told they are at risk of compulsory redundancy as the firm seeks to make cost savings.

Heartbroken staff have told how they saw their unlucky colleagues accompanied to their lockers by security staff to collect belongings before being escorted off the factory premises.

Many have been given paid leave to enable them to have time to find alternative employment.

The move comes several months after Perkins announced it was axing 450 jobs from its near-3,000 strong workforce.

But after only 315 staff indicated an interest in voluntary redundancy, the company announced it would have to make 164 compulsory job losses.

The partner of a worker at Perkins, who had escaped the job cuts and who did not wish to be identified, described how loyal staff who had worked at the factory for many years had been escorted off the site after being given the devastating news.

She said: "My partner said that it was the worst day possible, seeing workmates being removed and escorted to their lockers to pick up their belongings then taken off the premises like criminals."

A spokesman for Perkins said staff were being given time off to allow them to look for another job.

She said: "As part of the ongoing consultation process, 164 staff and hourly employees have been informed that they remain at risk of redundancy.

"These employees have been offered an extensive range of support and assistance. We are working closely with the Jobcentre and also have our own employee assistance programme providing free information on legal and other issues.

She added: "The vast majority of those employees who are at risk have been allowed to go on garden leave for the duration of the consultation period.

"The main reason for allowing employees paid leave is to enable them to fully focus on their search for alternative work, in Perkins or, if they wish, elsewhere.

"Although they are on paid leave those individuals are still employees and the company will continue to identify opportunities for alternative work.

"We are committed to doing our best to help find them alternative work and continue to provide a wide range of support services."

The job cuts mark the end of a 90-day consultation period, launched by the company in January, after parent firm Caterpillar saw profits drop dramatically in 2008.

Perkins is one of a number of major employers in the city to make mass redundancies, with fridge manufacturer Hotpoint cutting 423 jobs in November and catalogue firm Freemans putting 500 people out of work in January.