HUNDREDS of workers who were told to ‘down tools’ via text message last Friday - with no prior notice - protested in Wombwell on Monday morning after being ‘shafted’ by a manufacturing company just weeks before Christmas.
A total of 600 Safestyle UK jobs - around half of which are from the Wombwell site - were slashed over the weekend, much to the dismay of its workforce.
Hundreds of workers at the double-glazing firm’s Barnsley site were told to down tools and marched off site at 5pm last Friday.
At the same time, Safestyle suspended its share trading, locked its gates and told staff that it intends to file for administration.
Sources say the company received more than £10m in orders last month, while thousands of pounds were spent on social media advertising on Friday alone.
Staff, including 50-year-old Andrew Wildsmith, attended an ‘urgent’ meeting with the firm on Monday.
He told the Chronicle: “I’ve worked here 24 years - I’ve had some good times and some bad times as well.
“We’ve been put on short time recently - the lads have been losing around two hours.
“Others have been told they’re on over time - but we’ve been led to believe that management haven’t lost anything.
“On Friday we got a text message to say the factory was going to be shut.”
Andrew described the move as a ‘kick in the teeth’.
“It was disgusting,” he added.
“People were having their dinners, on holiday - all they got was a text.
“If it opens again then we’ll try and get back to some normality.
“Eight weeks before Christmas just to get a text saying it’s shut with no explanation.
“Everyone’s been asking in meetings what’s going off - but they’ve kept us in the dark.”
GMB Union, who are the support service for the workers, said the impact of the closure ‘cannot be overstated’.
Lee Parkinson, GMB organiser said: “Safestyle UK workers have been completely let down by mismanagement from the very top of the business.
“More than 600 workers have been cruelly cut off from work, weeks before Christmas, with no guarantee that they will even get last week’s pay.
“The impact of this closure upon the community of Barnsley cannot be overstated.
“It is simply devastating.”
Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock was also at the site supporting the workers on Monday - and urged the firm’s bosses to pay the workers before they’re forced to wait six weeks for their pay before Christmas.
She told the Chronicle: “I’ve been in touch with some constituents over the weekend and indeed the trade union - it’s absolutely shocking.
“We don’t really know what’s happened but what we do know is that workers received a text message on Friday, basically telling them to down tools.
“It looks likely that hundreds of workers are going to lose their jobs and that’s obviously devastating for the local area.
“People are very upset and angry - you’ve got people with over 20 years’ experience treated in such an awful way.
“We understand that even last month they were paying out dividends and there were millions of pounds worth of orders on the books.
“We’re asking where the money has gone and why it’s not been given to employees?
“And how what seemed like a profitable business has ended up in this position?”
Coun James Higginbottom, who represents the Wombwell ward, added: “We’re down here to support these workers who are demonstrating.
“It’s pretty clear with the strength of feeling the company has shafted these workers.
“They need to do the right thing and make sure that everyone gets paid.
“From a council perspective we’re going to do everything that we can to support.
“Whether that be through our skills team or our economic development team for those who have been affected.
“But the message is clear - the company needs to do the right thing.”