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Clock is ticking in race to save remaining jobs

A FORMAL statement said the job cuts were the result of "a detailed review of the financial position of the business and its future trading prospects."

It said: "The administrators have reluctantly had to announce a total of 180 redundancies today across various different parts of the company with immediate effect."

The statement blamed a drop in orders for the decision:

It added: "The administrators have reached this decision as a direct result of the reduced levels of customer orders being seen since the beginning of the year.

"With the on-going support of the company's remaining 372 employees, suppliers and other stakeholders, the administrators are continuing to trade the business while they talk to interested parties to try and find a buyer for the company."

Stag is the UK's largest manufacturer and supplier of assembled cabinet furniture. The company's main customers are mail order companies but it also sells to independent and multiple retail channels.

A COUNTDOWN started today that could see the axe fall on nearly 400 jobs at furniture giant Stag.

Administrators sacked 180 workers on Friday, and union chiefs believe they have as little as two weeks to find a buyer or the remaining 372 will suffer the same fate.

Accountants investigated the books at the Southwick firm for a week before slashing staff numbers.

And while PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) say it has been encouraged by the interest, it said it is too early to anticipate a firm takeover bid.

Regional organiser for the GMB union, Micky Hopper, said: "They've got to find a buyer or the rest of the workforce will go. It's as simple as that.

"They've shown no compassion for people who have worked here for 20 or 30 years and that shows the calibre of management that we're dealing with.

"They're not talking to us. If you're looking to take a business forward you have to communicate with the staff and with the trade unions.

"But they haven't and don't want to work with us. If there's not a buyer found, the whole business will close in two to three weeks.

"If they were serious, surely the people they wanted to keep on board would be the workers."

The former Silent Night factory remains the biggest manufacturer and supplier of assembled cabinet furniture.

Announcing the first wave of redundancies, Ian Green, joint administrator and partner at PWC, said: "We are encouraged by the initial levels of interest that have been expressed in the business, but more time is required to determine whether this will ultimately convert into a firm offer for the business."

But the sacked workers now fear the worst for their former colleagues, and that sooner rather than later they will be joining them looking for jobs.

Gagged from talking the Echo after the troubles began, they were able to vent their fury after being laid off on Friday.

The sacked workers include men with up to 30 years of service at the factory, along with all the GMB shop stewards.

They were given their marching orders about half an hour before the end of their shift, and banned from returning to the site.

THE Stag Cabinet Company was founded by William Radford in 1914 from the remains of the Buck Engineering Company. The company was subsequently taken over by Silentnight, but went independent again in June last year, after a management buy-out, and reverted to the Stag name. Administrators were appointed on February 14.

On Friday morning they went to work, on Friday night they returned home jobless

BOBBY Ayre was made redundant after 27 years at Stag.

The labourer, 44, of Maplewood Avenue, Marley Pots, is the sole provider for wife Mary, 43, and his two daughters.

He now has to find what will be just his second job to support Rebecca, 13, a St Anthony's pupil, and Jessica, seven, who goes to English Martyr's Primary School.

Bobby said: "I thought it was a job for life. I didn't expect this.

"I'm the only one working in the house, but life goes on.

"I've had some good times, some cracking times, but it's been depressing these past two and a half years since the last management change, especially the past eight months.

"I came in here wet behind the ears, straight from school, and I've known some of these lads longer than I've known my wife. I've been brought up with these people."

JOHN Coulthard was made redundant at the furniture factory for the second time.

He was first laid off as a teenager, then returned to the shop floor at Southwick at 20 and remained there for the next 30 years.

John, of Ayton, Washington, said: "I've worked with these people all my life and they're good friends, as well as colleagues.

"But since this form took over the rumours have been rife.

"As people were being taken away the factory came to a standstill. They were pulling people off lines left, right, and centre."

John's wife Lorainne, 48, is medically retired, and the couple also live with sons David, 20, and Ian, 18.

The 50-year-old added: "When you've worked for one company all your life you don't really know what you're going to do. But I'll find another job.

"You've just got to go out and find something."

ONE of the GMB shop stewards made redundant was Alan Dodds.

The 32-year-old, a dad-of-two, had worked at the furniture factory for five years, earning the basic 6 an hour.

He said: "I'm absolutely gutted. We've been kept in the dark for so long over this.

"It's frustrating – disgusting – to watch people who have become friends herded out like cattle. The management have got no compassion for the people who worked there."

Alan, who lives in Premier Road, Plains Farm, with partner Maureen and daughters Bethany, eight, and Katrina, four, believes the shop stewards were targeted for redundancy.

He said: "I got taken into an office, told to collect my things, walked to the office block then told not to return to the site.

"I was trying to find out what was happening all day. They waited until people had done their shift and then wiped their hands of them."

IAIN Laybourne, who had never had one sick day in 16 years at the factory was forced to tell his staff they were being laid off- before being dumped himself.

Iain, 34, has only just moved into a new house in South Hylton with wife Caroline, 26, and 11-month-old baby Harry, pictured left.

He started work at the factory at the age of 18, and rose through the ranks to management level.

But when he asked bosses what the criteria had been for redundancies, he was astounded to be told sickness and skills were the main factors.

Iain said: "They wouldn't even let me say 'ta-ra' to anyone before they took me out.

"The whole shift was like sitting on death row, just waiting for them to tap you on the shoulder.

"I gave them 16 years of my life and they didn't even give me a chance to say goodbye to the people I have worked with all those years.

"I don't know anything else. I went from the shop floor to management and was working from 6am-6pm. I liked my job.

Iain, who was earning 18,000 a year, now has to find a new job to support his young family.

Social club's trade will be hit

A SOCIAL club favoured by Stag workers is expecting a slide in trade after the axe fell.

The popular Heppies Club, on North Hylton Road, has been serving Stag employees for many years.

But that could soon end if a buyer cannot be found for the furniture giant.

"It will definitely effect our lunchtime trade when the lads come over for a pie and a pint," said Boyd Embers, pictured above, steward at Heppies. "And the same with the back-shift workers."

The 34-year-old Londoner, who lives in Pallion, said many disgruntled Stag staff were in Heppies after the job losses were announced on Friday.

"A lot of the lads were obviously unhappy about the way it has been handled.

"And some of them who were in here had lost their jobs on their birthday."

Despite the likely drop in trade from Stag's demise, Mr Embers said Heppies was not under threat.