08:22 Thursday 14th November 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: Up to 200 jobs are at risk at one of Cambridgeshire’s major employers, but bosses are reassuring staff that there’s unlikely to be more losses than that. Marshall Aerospace Defence Group currently employ around 2,200 people, but now it’s reducing to what it calls normal levels, following an increased workload over the past few years. Here’s Terry Holloway. He’s the Group Support Executive at the company.
TERRY HOLLOWAY: We would like to hope this is it. One operates in a volatile world. We’ve seen the tragic events in the Philippines, which have had a terrible effect on people working over there. We’ve conducted a review within our company, and this is it. We’re doing it in a one round issue, and of course the other part of it is at Mildenhall. We’ve come to the end of two very successful contracts to build vehicles for the Army, and we announced at the same time today that we’re closing the Mildenhall site, which has been expected. It’s been coming ever since we started our first contract. That developed into a second one, so we lose 39 jobs there.
PAUL STAINTON: That was Terry Holloway, Group Support Executive at Marshall’s. Cambridgeshire’s Labour Parliamentary candidate is Daniel Zeichner. Morning.
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: How much of a blow is this for Cambridge itself?
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Well Marshall is a great company, really important to Cambridge. It’s obviously very sad for the people who are going to be facing a rotten Christmas. It’s in the nature of their business frankly. They have these big contracts, and they do come to an end. What bothers me slightly, and I was talking to the company a couple of weeks ago with some Labour Shadow Ministers, is that they take the long term view. They don’t lay people off if they think there’s more work coming along, because it’s hard to get skilled staff.
PAUL STAINTON: They go on to do other things and you can’t get them back.
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Well that’s exactly the point. So they’re not the kind of company that takes these decisions lightly. They’ve looked ahead, and frankly they obviously can’t see the work coming along. So it is a blow. Marshall will remain a very very important employer in Cambridge. But my other worry is I don’t see much sign from the Government that they’re moving in to give the kind of support to people to get them into other jobs elsewhere, because across the country as a whole we have a shortage of skilled engineers.
PAUL STAINTON: And this is 10% of the workforce. When you say 200 jobs, you say it quickly it’s fine, but it’s people’s lives, people’s livelihoods.
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Exactly. And I’ve spoken to people who’ve lost their jobs before at Marshall, and it’s quite hard around here in this part of the country to find something else, which is why I say, when we’ve had these big redundancies in other places in the past, the Labour Government had Development Agencies. It brought the Employment Service in. You don’t want to be left on your own in these kind of circumstances. And I don’t get any sense that the Government’s responding in a way that I’d like to see.
PAUL STAINTON: Yet we keep being told that there’s more people in employment. We heard that yesterday. The unemployment figures are going down. And the economy is on the up.
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Well I think it’s more complicated than that. What we also know is there’s been this extraordinary rise in zero hours contracts. So people aren’t on the figures, but they’re sitting at home not doing anything, not getting paid. So it may not be quite as straightforward as it seems.
PAUL STAINTON: Well there is more people, a lot more people in work now than there was under the last Labour Government.
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Well actually the labour market expanded all the way through the Labour Government period as well, so this is an ongoing trend.
PAUL STAINTON: Isn’t the point a lot of these jobs are in the private sector and not the public sector as well?
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Well actually what this Government has done is fiddle the figures. It just suddenly says that 800,000 people are employed in higher and further education. Suddenly overnight it became the private sector rather than the public sector, so you can argue about the figures. But on the whole I agree with you. The labour market, the number of people employed is expanding, but it’s the kind of employment. And if people as I say are on these zero hours contracts, and some estimates nearly a million people, that is not the kind of jobs that we want to see.
PAUL STAINTON: What could the Government do, or anybody do, to intervene here with these jobs at Marshall’s? What would you like them to do right now?
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Well I’d like them to do right now exactly what I’ve said, which is bring people in, the kind of agencies that came in when Jaguar/Land Rover had big redundancies. You need the Employment Service, as you need the Regional Development Agency back, because these things don’t happen by chance. It needs intervention, and I’m afraid this Government irresponsibly slashed all those agencies a couple of years ago, so I don’t think there’s much help for people at the moment.
PAUL STAINTON: Daniel, thank you for coming in this morning. That’s Cambridgeshire’s Labour Parliamentary candidate Daniel Zeichner, commenting on those job losses at Marshall. 200 people set to lose their jobs. Shouldn’t be any more than that, according to Terry Holloway.