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Bleak Christmas facing axed steel workers

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SAD TIME: Steelworker Nigel Ratcliff who has been at ASW since 1974. Picture: MATTHEW WALKER
SAD TIME: Steelworker Nigel Ratcliff who has been at ASW since 1974. Picture: MATTHEW WALKER

WORKERS at Allied Steel & Wire's Sheerness plant were still shell-shocked today following the annoucement that 190 people were being made redundant from the melt shop.

They make up more than half of the steel mill's workforce.

The workers will now have to sign on and look for new jobs just six weeks before Christmas. The remaining workforce is expected to go in the run up to Christmas and in the New Year.

Joe Mann, union divisional officer, said: "There is a reaction of shock and dismay at a situation that's obviously unbelievable. We are going to seek talks with the new owners Celsa for clarification on the situation and make them realise this plant should remain open, as it is financially viable. It's about the Sheerness community as well as our members."

A meeting for all union members is due to be held at the Ivy Leaf Club, High Street, Sheerness, at 1pm and 7.30pm tomorrow (Wednesday).

Workers and the administrative receivers KPMG are due to meet on Thursday and Friday at the steel mill to discuss redundancy money and when they are likely to receive it.

David Moore, 37, from Minster, who was has worked at the melt shop for 18 years, received a call at home on Monday afternoon, just six hours after finishing his shift, to say he had lost his job. He said: "I'll have to sign on. I have a wife and two kids to support. I'm gutted. I'm devastated.

"I started at the steel works when I was 18 so I don't know what I'll do. The whole thing has been very cloak and dagger, though, because the receivers and managers had not said anything."

John Stockham, 51, from Sheerness, is an operative maintainer who has worked at the steel mill for 27 years. He will eventually be made redundant and says he might have to sell his detached three-bedroom home in order to survive.

He said: "They're virtually asking us to carrying on working and then kicking you up the bum at the end of it. We were only sold three years ago, then three years later we're told our pensions are practically gone. Then we are told a month before Christmas we are going to be made redundant.

"I'll have to get another job. I'm likely to get £7,000 redundancy, I suppose it gives me a stop gap for three months to sell my home, if I can sell it in that time, but I've now got to start at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up again."

Ian Leonard, 51, who has worked for the steel mill for 26 years, described it as 'just one big stab in the back' for the workers. Patrick Wiggins, 58, from Minster, who was worked at the mill for 29 years, says he will now have to find another job and retire later than planned.

He said: "My biggest concern is the fact I've lost my pension which was a satisfactory amount. Now I've got to take another job to survive."

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