Union leaders demand talks with Fairline Boats’ bosses after workers laid off

Southampton boat show 2015 Launch of the Fairline Targa 53GT EMN-150913-085643009
Southampton boat show 2015 Launch of the Fairline Targa 53GT EMN-150913-085643009

Union leaders have called for talks with the new owners of luxury yacht builder Fairline after it temporarily laid off a third of its workforce.

Officials of Unite are seeking urgent talks with private equity firm and luxury brand operator Wessex Bristol, which acquired Fairline Boats on Tuesday.

Fairline Boats, which was established 52 years ago and employs 465 people, has bases in Oundle, near Peterborough, and Corby.

Unite regional officer Sean Kettle said: “There is a lot of anxiety and upset among the staff at Fairline.

“The company is not sharing with us what the real reasons are for this action. We want to be part of the solution in making this company successful.

He said: “I have written to Corby MP Tom Pursglove regarding our concerns over the company’s future and lack of any meaningful consultation, and to join me in a meeting with new chief executive Ayiaz Ahmed.

“I have also contacted Corby Borough Council, which has agreed to offer support to the company and employees during this difficult period.

“There are also real concerns regarding industrial relations that need to be addressed.

But a spokeswoman for Fairline said the company was taking action to help staff and had not received any communication from Unite asking for a meeting.

Mr Kettle added: “On the day of the sale of Fairline Boats by Better Capital to Wessex Bristol, our members were in a state of shock after being told that a third of the production workforce - 109 employees - were being laid off for three-to-five weeks from Monday.

“The new owner is reneging on a lay-off/short working time agreement which could have protected up to 60 per cent of their pay.

“Instead the company has chosen to use the lowest possible government statutory payment for lay-offs which amounts to a maximum of £26-a-day for five days in any three month period, so a maximum of £130.

“Questions are being raised over the selection process for the 109 of the 300 workers and that the right to appeal the decision was denied.

“The loyal production employees have not had pay rise in seven years.

“Since Better Capital took over in 2011, members have seen their terms and conditions eroded.

“Variations on their employment contracts have been imposed, as well a loss of a production bonus scheme.

“I would urge the new owners to see Unite and its members as part of the solution in creating a successful boat building company.”

A spokeswoman for Fairline said: “To help support affected workers, Fairline is organising a multi-agency advice session at the company bringing together representatives from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, JobCentre Plus and the National Career Service to help assist affected employees with support during this period.

She said that 107 people had been temporarily laid off from a head count of 465 staff - which includes production and white collar staff.

She added: “Neither Neil Ashley, head of HR or Sandra Okes-Voysey, operations director at Fairline have received any calls or emails from Unite asking to meet or talk.

“Also, Fairline has not had any request from any of the 107 employees affected to appeal against the decision taken. Nor has the company had any request from Unite to raise any appeal.”

Related:

Boat manufacturer at Peterborough enforces temporary layoff for some staff

New owner for luxury yacht maker at Peterborough