Job fears for 80 workers at stricken Sunderland waste firm Alex Smiles

Alex Smiles
Alex Smiles
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EIGHTY workers at a waste recycling firm on Wearside are facing redundancy after it ran into financial difficulty.

The Echo reported last week how Alex Smiles, based in Deptford, had been hit with legal action by the Environment Agency to reduce the huge amount of waste on site.

Alex Smiles

Alex Smiles

The waste management, recycling and skip hire business, set up in the 1970s, employs more than 80 people and operates 40-plus heavy goods vehicles, but a mountain of rubbish is now piling up at its base.

Bosses at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said they are aware of the issue and are monitoring it in case the risk of fire increases.

It has now emerged that staff have been sent letters indicating they could soon be made redundant because of the company’s inability to pay creditors and its loss of working capital.

A winding up petition has also been served on the firm.

We’re in dire times at the present and people need every penny they can get. We don’t want anymore people having to go to food banks to feed themselves.

A letter sent to workers reads: “I am able to tell you that there has been interest expressed in staff, the assets and the organisation.

“However, until any matters are concluded I am unable to provide further detail, due to the uncertainty of any outcome.

“For this reason, the company has no alternative to proposing that all employees may be made redundant and your role is one of those that have been identified as being at risk of redundancy.”

Job Centre Plus staff met with workers at Alex Smiles last week after the letters were sent out.

One employee, who did not want to be named, told the Echo: “There are tens of thousands of tonnes of waste to get rid of and nowhere to get rid of it.

“Eighty good, honest people could be losing their jobs.”

Millfield councillor Bob Price said: “Obviously it’s upsetting that people could be losing their jobs.

“I’d hope they can reach a settlement and avoid redundancies.

“If it does go through, then I hope that those people manage to get jobs elsewhere straightaway.

“We’re in dire times at the present and people need every penny they can get. We don’t want anymore people having to go to food banks to feed themselves.”

When contacted by the Echo, a spokeswoman for Alex Smiles said the firm had “no comment” to make at this time.

The firm, which was set up in 1973 by Alex with the support of his late wife Jane, remained based in Wellington Lane until the turn of the century, moving to its current site at Deptford, close to crane manufacturer Liebherr, in 2002.

Over the last three decades, the company has grown to employ more than 80 people, operating on a nine-acre site and has built a fleet of 40 trucks including skip wagons, wheeled tippers and artic units.