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THURSDAY, 10th FEBRUARY, 2011.
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No sparkling future as jewellery jobs go
By Tom Byrne Former workers of a Congleton jewellery company have voiced their anger at “broken promises” and a lack of redundancy pay, a month after being dismissed.
Congleton-based HPJ Retailing and its wholesaler Family Jewels were recently ought by acquisition company Gordon Brothers.
Twenty-two of the 53 staff members at the Congleton Somerford Booths Hall headquarters were made redundant as art of the deal. Twenty-six stores went into liquidation and 173 redundancies were made nationwide. According to Gordon Brothers, the deal safeguarded 329 jobs.
But workers at the
Congleton branch are accusing their former managers of promising a bright future for the company and failing to inform them of the company’s grave financial situation.
Twenty-two Congleton workers lost their jobs and, in letters from the company dated 10th and 13th January, redundancy pay entitlement was promised.
One former employee, who worked at HPJ for nine years, told the “Chronicle” that it was not the loss of his job that angered him, but the poor treatment of loyal workers.
He said: “There are ways of doing things, you know. I thought it was a nice family company but we weren’t given any warning and we still haven’t been told about redundancy money. Why couldn’t management have told us before Christmas that something might be happening or given us our 30 days notice?
“We’re speaking to ACAS about it.
“It’s caused sleepless nights because I don’t know when I’ll get my redundancy payment. I understand that in the economic climate businesses do struggle;
so it’s not that they went into administration that bothers me it is the way that the issue was dealt with by managers.”
Another former worker echoed her colleague’s thoughts: “I feel very let down. Nobody was told that this was coming and we certainly weren’t given our 30 days’ notice. And we’re still waiting for our redundancy pay which, given that we were told about it on 13th January isn’t good enough.”
According to letters sent to employees, HPJ was hit by poor pre-Christmas sales and adverse trading conditions.
Gordon Brothers took over the company, putting it into administration and transforming it into Gemstone Retail and Gemstone Operations. Twentysix shops ceased trading to streamline the business and keep it operational.
Fraser Pearce, of Gordon Brothers, said: “We are delighted that we have agreed a sale of this long established retailer which secures the jobs of the majority of the workforce and enables the business to continue trading from a number of high streets and shopping centres across the UK.”
KPMG was in charge of the sale of the retailer and spokesman Alison Anderson said: “The reason that redundancy pay has not been paid is because the business was insolvent; the money isn’t there to pay debts.
“But there are options for the workers and there is help available. There are claims forms being sent out and there is an advice helpline for information on how to claim redundancy from the Government’s Redundancy Payment Office.”
One last chance for residents to get their own parking spaces
Residents’ parking schemes costing £50 a year will not be forced on town centre households that don’t want them.
Cheshire East Council is this week holding four public meetings in Congleton Town Hall about the plans, which the authority argues will stop motorists parking outside residents’ homes to avoid being charged.
Questionnaires asking residents if they want their own parking zones will soon be sent out. The scheme will only go ahead if the majority are in favour.
On Monday residents from Antrobus Street, North Street, South Street, Holford Street and River Street attended the first meeting.
wouldn’t be forced on people, adding: “If you don’t want it you don’t have to have it.”
He denied it was a ploy to raise money for the cash-strapped council, saying the scheme would take three years to break even.
Residents were first surveyed about a scheme early last year, but overwhelming apathy led to the plans being dropped.
Re-evaluate Mr Howard explained why the council was carrying out the survey again: “The first survey came very close to when the council first put parking charges in. One person has told me they would campaign against it as a sign of opposition to car parking charges.”
If the plan goes ahead, motorists will pay £50 per car per year for the right to park in a resident’s parking bay on the road, although not necessarily outside their house. They could also buy books of one-day tickets so visitors could use the spaces.
Council traffic wardens would patrol the roads.
James Howard, the council’s residents’ parking manager, chaired the meeting. He told the 20 people there that the scheme
He said this survey would give people a chance to re-evaluate their position now more time had passed.
When some residents accused the council of trying to push forward the plans whatever public opinion was, Mr Howard said: “I have no opinion. Whatever you decide really doesn’t matter to me or the council. I have nothing up my sleeve. • —Turn to back page.
Reception and year one pupils at Woodcock’s Well Primary School, Mow Cop, were all ears on Friday when they dressed as rabbits to take part in national storytelling week. And it was a double celebration for George Kelsall (pictured) and his reception class friends, as they also learned about the new Chinese year of the rabbit. For the story and more photos, turn to page 30. (“Chronicle” photo. 611b/11).
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