Workers fear for their homes

FURIOUS workers from a crisis-hit food factory have told their local MP that they are facing eviction from their homes because the company hasn’t paid them for two months.

More than 40 staff attended a meeting with Sir Alan Beith in Hadston on Friday afternoon, many saying their long-standing loyalty to Longbenton Foods in Amble had been repaid with complete disregard for their welfare and security.

The firm is the latest company to take over the beleaguered frozen food site, stepping in with a last-minute bid in October after the business went into administration two months earlier.

The Newcastle-based company restarted manufacturing and took on 70 of the 250 former staff, with plans to create further employment opportunities as the business grew.

But Longbenton Foods failed to raise the necessary funds to complete the transfer and the contract was rescinded last week by administrators Begbies Traynor. The factory, meanwhile, has remained shut since Christmas.

Warehouse forklift operator James Lord said: “We were told prior to Christmas that we were set to go back to work and that a payment package had been made. Since Christmas we have been strung along by the management.

“We haven’t had our P45s and we haven’t been paid since December 23. Even then, we only received half the pay we were due. The whole thing seems to have been a pretence.”

He added: “The most frustrating thing is not being given a straight answer. We don’t know whether we should wait or start looking elsewhere for other jobs. People are starting to get behind with their rents and mortgages, which is causing them serious worries, including possible eviction.”

One female worker, who asked not to be named, said: “They have no idea how many lives they are destroying. This isn’t just wrong, it’s illegal. There is nothing in our contracts to say we shouldn’t be paid, even if we are not working, and no one has been sent a letter saying their employment is finished.”

Another member of staff told how his mortgage was now in arrears because he couldn’t qualify for assistance because he was still technically employed.

Sir Alan said: “We are still pressing the administrator of Northumberland Foods and Longbenton Foods to make every effort to reach agreement and put the factory back to work, but there are also lots of issues surrounding individuals’ pay and contracts.”