Workers ‘held to ransom’ as staff left in limbo at Essentra cigarette factory

Essentra, Bede Industrial Estate
Essentra, Bede Industrial Estate

A worried worker at a South Tyneside factory set for closure says workers feel they are being ‘held to ransom’ - after claiming he risks losing out on redundancy cash if he takes up a new job.

The machine operator at Jarrow-based cigarette filter supplier Essentra says he has been told his leaving date is earmarked for the middle of next month, but he could be made to stay on longer if more work becomes available.

The man, who has asked not to be named, says he and fellow workers will struggle to find new employment unless they are given guarantees they can leave Essentra on a set date - without puttying their redundancy payments ar risk.

An Essentra spokeswoman said every employee has been givin a potential leaving date but they could not comment on individual cases.

Nearly a third of the workforce at the factory, on Bede Industrial Estate, Jarrow, clocked off for the final time at the end of August after closure plans were confirmed.

A total of 220 workers are to be made redundant when the staged closure is complete - expected to be before the end of the year.

Once the site is closed, production and manufacturing work will be transferred to a plant in Hungary.

The GMB Union confirmed that some short-term additional work has been provided to allow a number of workers to stay on beyond their initial leaving date.

But the worker fears he will not be allowed to leave and keep his redundancy payment if he finds new employment before his leaving date is confirmed.

He said: “They are holding us to ransom , basically moving the goalposts all of the time. We are looking for work and going for interviews, not knowing if we’re allowed to leave.

“The next leaving date is the middle of October and management are saying they have the right to keep us longer if they need us - and if we leave we will lose any redundancy payment.

“Those workers who haven’t found new employment will be grateful for a chance to heve their leaving date put off but if the factory stays open until the end of November, many could find themselves looking for work over Christmas.

“We feel like we are in limbo.”

Essentra says a decline in cigarette sales in Western Europe has led to many of its suppliers moving to Central and Eastern Europe – with the firm now set to follow suit.

An Essentra spokeswoman said: “As we transition the activities from Jarrow over the next few months, I can confirm that every employee has been communicated a potential leaving date.”

The spokeswoman added, however, that the company could not comment on individual cases.