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Lay-offs will not stop factory move to Cromer, boss insists

08:00 12 February 2014

Paul Reeve - Structure-flex General Manager

Paul Reeve - Structure-flex General Manager

Archant

A delay in securing a major contract has led a Norfolk manufacturing firm to lay off 18 production staff.

Paul Reeve, managing director of Structure-flex, said the move – “not taken lightly” – would have no impact on their plans to move into new factory premises in August.

The firm, currently based in Melton Constable, has bought the empty Cromer Crab Company factory site and is investing more than £1m in a refit.

Staff affected, nearly a third of the 70-strong workforce, have been told the lay-off will be for an initial four-week period when the situation will be reviewed.

The workers, who have all been at the family-owned firm between one and four years, have been told voluntary redundancy might be possible and it is understood two people are exploring that option.

Mr Reeve said: “We are waiting for a contract to be awarded and we expect that to happen in the next couple of weeks. Then we can assess the number of people we need to fulfil it.”

Structure-flex manufactures a wide range of products, from high frequency welded big bags and lorry curtains to crane test bags and liquid tanks, and Mr Reeve said the contract related to just one part of the business.

He said: “All other areas of the business are on or above budget. Structure-flex as a whole is very sound and stable and we are fully committed to the move.”

He said they were “90pc confident” the contract would be awarded and the need for the lay-off came down to timing.

“Normally there is an overlap between one contract finishing and another starting, but that has not worked out,” he said.

“The decision to lay people off was not taken lightly; we had spent the last three to four weeks manufacturing stock but realised the contract delay could go on for another four weeks.”

During the lay-off, which started on February 4, staff will be unpaid apart from a legally guaranteed payment for the first five working days of the period.

At the time Structure-flex’s planned move was announced a company spokesman said it was hoped improved facilities would help the 43-year-old business’s competitiveness which, in time, could lead to expansion.

The firm has appointed Bidwells, in Norwich, to project-manage the redevelopment of the former seafood processing factory and it is due to be completed by June.

Structure-flex, with an annual sales turnover of £10m, scooped its first Queen’s award last April after recording a 277pc surge in overseas sales.

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