Kent

Sheerness-based Thamesteel workers to be made redundant

Workers at a Kent steel firm which has gone into administration have been told they are to be made redundant.

Staff leaving the meeting with administrators on Thursday told of their disgust and disappointment.

Employee Kevin McCord said: "I'm devastated. I'm 63 so basically that's finished, isn't it? The chance of getting a job now is just about nil."

Thamesteel employs 400 people in Sheerness, and is one of the biggest private firms on the Isle of Sheppey.

MidKent College said that nine apprentices and 11 Higher National Certificate students would be losing places at the Sheerness company.

The apprentices are studying advanced level engineering and are three-quarters of the way through their programme.

Conservative councillor Ken Pugh, of Kent County Council, said: "It's just another nail in the coffin. People will just get demoralised completely, because there aren't any jobs around."

Joel Fletcher, an apprentice, said: "Being told the day before you're due to be paid that you're not going to be paid is disgusting."

'Employment disaster'

Workers turning up for their shift on Wednesday were turned away following the news that a deal with a potential investor had fallen through.

Local MP Gordon Henderson said he was "devastated" and was seeking a meeting with Business Secretary Vince Cable.

"It's an employment disaster... these aren't just my constituents, these are my friends and my neighbours, and I'm going to do all I possibly can to help them," Mr Henderson said.

Thamesteel makes steel bars which reinforce cement used in the construction industry.

'Quality jobs'

In 2002, it was sold to Allied Steel and Works which then went into liquidation before the plant was acquired by the Saudi-based Al-Tuwairqi Group.

The company describes itself as "one of the fastest growing steel manufacturers in the UK" with an annual revenue of more £100m.

Mr Henderson said his first priority would be to contact the administrator to seek a meeting.

Roy Rickhuss, national officer for the Community union, said it was "further evidence that construction is in serious decline in the UK".

"There has to be something that the government can do about stimulating that part of the economy.

"There's got to be a plan, at the moment there's no plan, and all we're seeing is manufacturing going down, and these are good quality jobs."

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