Workers at the Stead McAlpin textile factory in Cummersdale, near Carlisle, are fighting for justice after their employer went into receivership, leaving them without any redundancy pay.
The members of the Unite union were employed by John Lewis until 2007, when they, along with workers at their sister factory JH Birtwistle in Haslingden near Blackburn, were sold off to Apex Textiles.
But this company then went into administration on 1 April this year. The workers are demanding that John Lewis meets its obligations to them.
The workers have held a 24-hour vigil at the factory, they lobbied Gordon Brown when he visited Carlisle recently, and 35 of them travelled to protest at John Lewis’s headquarters and its Oxford Street store in London on Friday of last week.
Chris Hughes, a Stead McAlpin worker, told Socialist Worker, “We are mostly in our 40s and 50s and have put in years of service for John Lewis. The company needs to show us some compassion, as we’ve put our whole lives into it.
“John Lewis sold us off to Apex Textiles in 2007. We never got a say in this. We thought they were asset strippers brought in to close us down.
“John Lewis didn’t want the bad publicity that would come with closing us down. Now Apex Textiles’s management has done a runner.
“We were called into the canteen three weeks ago and told that we were being made redundant. The company only lasted 18 months. While there was a guarantee that we would get John Lewis’ terms of redundancy if Apex collapsed in two years, that didn’t apply if the firm went into receivership.
“This means that we’ll just get the government’s minimum redundancy pay-out, rather than the money we’re owed.
“Our main grievance is with John Lewis, who never had the decency to offer us our redundancies. We went down to London to show our disappointment with the management.
“We have been cut off from John Lewis. I was told I was a partner during my 35 years with them. Where’s my share of the partnership?
“There are no jobs in Carlisle. Where do we turn for work? People could lose their homes after this. We are still working at the factory while the receivers try to get another buyer.
“We called Jim Kidd, the managing director of Apex, the ‘Cisco Kid’, as he’s a cowboy. But there’s nothing to stop him setting up a new firm.
“We are now planning a court case over the sell-off and taking our protests to other John Lewis stores.”