Shock new figures reveal toll of area’s jobs woe

A SHOCKING one in twenty people of working age in Batley, Birstall and Birkenshaw is on the dole.

Thursday, 2nd February 2012, 1:07 pm

The figures come as one of Batley’s biggest employers announced it was leaving the town.

The number of people signing on across our area shot up in December 2011, with an extra 127 people joining the hunt for work.

The Batley East ward saw the highest rise, with 63 additional Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants signing on that month.

The ward, which covers Hanging Heaton, Upper Batley, Mount Pleasant, Batley Carr and Soothill, also has the highest proportion of unemployed young people. More than a third of its claimants are aged 18 to 24.

In Batley West, 6.5 per cent of the working-age population are signing on – the highest percentage in North Kirklees.

And things are set to get worse when Soothill’s Rest Assured factory closes at the end of April.

Around 200 workers found out on Friday they were losing their jobs as the Silentnight Group confirmed the closure of its site on Grange Road.

Plans to close the factory were first revealed last October ahead of a 90-day consultation with staff and trade unions.

On Friday, employees were given their official notice and will receive statutory redundancy plus a £100 bonus.

Terry Thompson, who first started at the firm aged 16, said employees offered to take a pay cut in a bid to keep the factory open but the idea was dismissed.

He said: “I’m now left looking for a job – something I haven’t had to do in 40-odd years.”

Unite representative Beverley Clarkson said the £100 bonus took some fighting for.

She said: “The union did a test-the-water ballot to see how many people were prepared to take industrial action.

“As a result of this the company said they had a pot of money to be shared out when people left but would only offer this if the threat of industrial action was lifted.”

Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood said during the consultation the company seemed reluctant to meet employees half way.

He said: “Perhaps if they’d treated their employees better, particularly such hard-working and dedicated staff such as those in Batley, the company would not be in the difficulties it finds itself.”

A spokeswoman for the Silentnight Group said it was ‘very regrettable’ that the factory had to close but added that bed and mattress market had down-sized significantly in the last four years.

In a statement, group chairman Adrian Fawcett said: “The consequences of this decision on all our employees at Batley, many of whom have given many years of service to the group, is greatly regretted.”