Luxury clothing brand Burberry came under attack today when workers heard from the media that they were losing their jobs under plans to close a factory.
The GMB union said it was “outrageous” that staff at the Rotherham site heard the grim news from radio and television reports and pledged to campaign for a change in the law to prevent it happening again.
Burberry described the Rotherham plant as a sewing facility, which it said will close as part of a restructuring set to cost up to 290 jobs.
Around 170 jobs will be lost at the South Yorkshire plant, which sews basic outerwear for the label, while further UK staff whose work relates to the factory could also lose their jobs.
Angry workers at the Rotherham factory said they knew nothing about the closure until they heard it on the news this morning.
Women gathering outside the gates of the small plant said they were disgusted and upset.
Patricia Turner, 52, said: “Everyone’s so upset. It’s just a shock. We did not know.”
Her colleague Angela Adams, 39, said: “It’s a disgrace. I only found out when my friend stopped me as I was walking in the gates. She said ’Have you heard it on the news?’ We had no idea. There’s nothing else round here. We’re devastated.”
Another woman, who did not want to named, said: “I can’t believe we’ve found out like this.
“They must have known but we’ve been told nothing until we all saw it on GMTV.”
Outside the gates, GMB union official Theresa White said: “It’s disgusting what they’ve done here today.
“There’s been no consultation, nothing.
“People are very, very upset.”
Tim Roache, regional officer of the GMB union, said: “I can confirm that the GMB and its members were given no notice of this announcement. The first we heard of it was from the media.
“We are appalled that in 2009 this approach is still carrying on – it is completely outrageous. We will have talks on this aspect to see if we can get the law changes to stop it happening.”
Burberry said the measures were part of a global cost cutting campaign that will see the total loss of around 540 jobs in the UK and Spain.
It said the move would save the company between £30m (€38.8m) and £35m (€45.3m).
In 2006 Burberry announced the closure of its factory in the Rhondda Valley in South Wales, which employed 300 people.
The move prompted a celebrity-backed union campaign but the closure went ahead.
The company, which employs 6,000 staff globally, said it has no plans to leave the UK.
Burberry said the job cuts were linked to “evolving its supply chain” and were not prompted by the global economic downturn.
Angela Ahrendts, Burberry chief executive said: “This will position us to trade through the current difficult environment and emerge even stronger when the global economy recovers.”
The Rotherham sewing facility has been owned by Burberry for less than five years.
Rotherham’s Labour MP, Denis MacShane, said he had asked ministers to send in teams from the local Jobcentre and Learning and Skills Council to help the employees find other work.
“I regret the loss of these manufacturing jobs,” he said. “This is part of the current economic crisis due to the unchecked greed of banks in the Thatcher era for which we are now paying a high price.”