WORKERS have been left fearing for their futures after a major drinks depot entered administration and plans to close an envelope factory were announced.
Beer, wine and spirits wholesaler WaverleyTBS, which employs more than 208 staff at its base in Felling, Gateshead, has called in experts from Deloitte with the hope of selling the business as a going concern.
But for 62 staff at Bong UK’s Washington plant the picture is bleaker, with managers announcing a 30-day consultation that could see the end of the firm’s presence in the region.
However, managers at the County Durham factory, which is known locally as John Dickinson, have pledged to do all they can to support the affected staff.
Mark Cooper, managing director of Bong UK Ltd, said: “We fully appreciate the impact that this news will have on our workforce today, especially in the current economic climate, which has badly affected our own sector along with so many others.
“In the last few years the envelope manufacturing industry has been hit hard by both the economic recession and also changing lifestyles as people and businesses communicate more and more online.”
Several of the industry’s well-known manufacturers in the UK and Europe have closed or gone bankrupt in the last two years, while the Washington and Milton Keynes operations of Bong UK Ltd have shed around 30 jobs in the last 12 months.
“We scaled back our North East operation in the first quarter of the year with the loss of 10 jobs at Washington,” said Mr Cooper. “We had to advise staff back in June that we needed to evaluate the impact on jobs across Bong UK Ltd in the light of a continued decline in volumes.
“Our immediate focus as far as this part of our business is concerned is on having an honest and constructive discussion with the staff who are affected by these proposals, whilst continuing to provide a first class service to our customers across the UK.”
Mr Cooper said meetings would not take place between managers, staff and unions before any final decision was made.
Meanwhile, WaverleyTBS staff on Tyneside said they had been told they were not allowed to speak out for fear they would lose any redundancy package, should it come to that, though one angry worker branded the situation “disgusting”.
Deloitte partners Daniel Butters and William Dawson were yesterday appointed joint administrators for the firm, which sells both alcoholic and soft drinks including Greene King IPA, Timothy Taylor Landlord and John Smith’s Extra Smooth. They said they intend to keep the business going while trying to find a buyer.
The company saw pre-tax profits grow 5.5% to £4.2m following its first year of trading after restructuring.
“The company has a committed workforce and a strong customer network across the UK, supplying to a large proportion of both national and free trade beverage retailers across the country,” said Mr Butters, leader of the restructuring services practice at Deloitte in the North East.
“WaverleyTBS is a prominent business within its industry and we are in negotiations with a number of interested parties.”