Jobs blow for Suffolk workers

STAFF at a caravan manufacturing firm were left stunned yesterday when they were told the company had gone into administration threatening the jobs of the entire workforce of more than 70.

Dave Gooderham

by Dave Gooderham

STAFF at a caravan manufacturing firm were left stunned yesterday when they were told the company had gone into administration threatening the jobs of the entire workforce of more than 70.

Dozens of staff were axed hours after arriving for work and the rest told they would have to leave in one week as their award-winning company went into a shock administration.

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Unsuspecting employees at renowned Fleetwood Caravans claimed they were told the sudden news yesterday morning amid fears that the 70-plus workforce could all lose their jobs within days.

Loyal staff, many with family members also working at the factory, were said to have broken down in tears as they were told the news by administrators.

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Community leaders in Long Melford last night spoke of their devastation for staff as news filtered out about the picturesque village's biggest employer.

Colin Taylor, who has worked at Fleetwood for 16 years, revealed that staff were split into two groups yesterday morning with about 40 people told they would have to leave immediately.

Mr Taylor, who works in production, said: “They told our group that we would be able to stay until we finished off the work and then go straight away.

“There were a lot of tears as whole households work here and others have been here for 30 years.

“I think we will be working until about Tuesday and a lot of people are very worried about finding new work.”

Administrators were last night keeping tight-lipped about the immediate future of the factory which has been in operation for 40 years.

It is believed the caravan industry has taken a hit in the current economic turmoil, but yesterday's announcement still came as a shock with staff clearly upset hours after hearing the news.

David Taylor, who worked at Fleetwood for more than 20 years before retiring last year, said: “Most people here are long-standing employees who have shown loyalty to the company.

“We have always had a good reputation but I guess things change. I am sure all the staff are upset and worried.”

Fleetwood, which produces more than 600 caravans a year, was taken over by Slovenian-based caravan and motor home giant Adria in 2005 but it is thought that staff employed there were safe.

Richard Kemp, Melford parish, district and county councillor, last night spoke of his shock and concern for the village which was last year voted in the top ten most attractive places to live.

He said: “I am devastated by this news and worried about what the future might hold for staff who have lost their jobs.

“There are many families who work at Fleetwood and also people who have been there a long time. I have heard stories of grown men in tears.”

Iain Wotherspoon , chairman of Long Melford Parish Council, said: “Fleetwood is a major employer in the village and is therefore very important to Melford and the surrounding areas.

“I am saddened and shocked by this news and it brings home the current problems the entire country is facing at the moment.”

A statement on the company's website read: “David Standish and Allan Graham were appointed joint administrators of Fleetwood Caravans Ltd on January 6, 2009.

“The affairs, business and property of the company are being managed by the joint administrators.”

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