Worries of employees at Peterborough’s Perkins Engines ahead of shutdown are heard in Government

The fears of hundreds of employees at Peterborough’s Perkins Engines as it prepares for a two week shutdown have been raised with Government business leaders.

Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 1:37 pm
Peterborough MP Paul Bristow. EMN-191213-100350009

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow has brought Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi’s attention to bear on the worries of many staff about the shutdown this week and what it meant for their families.

Now Mr Bristow has called on the engineering giant, which has been a prominent employer in the city for 80 years, to end the uncertainty and explain to staff exactly where they stand.

The anxieties were triggered by Perkins’ announcement two days ago that it planned to shutdown for two weeks from tomorrow and that staff would be taking annual leave.

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Perkins Engines. ENGEMN00120120213164508

But many employees raised concerns about the length of the shutdown and whether it would effectively force them to take unpaid leave to have their regular two week summer break.

They have queried why the 80-year-old company was not making use of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, under which it can claim a grant to cover 80 per cent of staff’s monthly earnings - up to £2,500 - but which has to be for a minimum of three weeks.

Many say the company has blamed a shortage of parts for the shutdown but it is not clear why it thinks the situation will have changed over the fortnight.

Mr Bristow said: “Perkins Engines is an iconic part of our city.

“I know how important the company is to Peterborough and to its employees.

“From the emails in my inbox, I know that many of them are worried about the shutdown this week and what it means for their families.

He said: “For the last five days, my office has been in regular contact with Caterpillar, which owns Perkins Engines. I have asked repeatedly for clarity and answers to my questions.

“On the phone to Caterpillar this afternoon, I was told – again – that the relevant issues are still being reviewed and negotiated. Yet people are being sent home from work this week.

“Caterpillar needs to bring this uncertainty to an end and tell employees whether this closure replaces their regular, two-week summer shutdown, if they intend to ask workers to use their annual leave, whether anyone will be asked to take unpaid leave, what they are doing to comply with employment law and why they believe the supply chain will recover by April 20.

Mr Bristow added: “They have a duty to consider whether furloughing would protect its employees better in the short or medium term.

“Workers at Perkins deserve to know where they stand.

“Because of my concerns, I spoke tonight to the Minister for Business and Industry, Nadhim Zahawi MP, to discuss the situation and what can be done to support businesses. As it has been throughout this crisis, the Government is ready to help.

“Things are difficult for everyone at the moment.

“I hope that Caterpillar will do their best for employees and manufacturing in Peterborough by being clearer about their intentions.

“Our city expects no less.”

Perkins Engines has been approached for its comments.

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