Despair for proud Railcare workers

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With no light at the end of the tunnel, frustrated workers at the stricken Railcare train repair depot in Wolverton are struggling to put food on the table.

The company went into administration last week and 118 workers, about 40 per cent of the workforce, were made redundant last Friday.

But even those ‘lucky’ enough to have kept their jobs are now becoming desperate as they struggle to pay bills and provide for their families.

The remaining workers at the Wolverton site, which this year ‘celebrates’ 175 years of rail engineering in the town, have not been paid since June 28. The administrators are said to have drawn up a temporary arrangement which means they should be paid, but they don’t yet know when.

“How can you tell people to carry on working when they don’t know if they will be paid for it,” said Tom Emerton, the union representative for the UNITE union at Railcare in Wolverton.

“People are now getting desperate – and desperate people do desperate things.

“Men are going home to their wives and children and have to say they are getting no money. It’s disgraceful.

“One lad might have to give up his flat and move back to his parents’ home because he can’t pay the rent.”

There are worries that some of the workers being kept in the dark may turn to payday loan companies just to be able to provide for their families, with administrators still no closer to securing a buyer for the company.

“If there was light at the end of the tunnel then people could carry on working, but they have not been paid for so long that they are giving up hope,” added Mr Emerton, who has been employed at the Wolverton works for 38 years.

“Men are saying they will be better off quitting their jobs and going on the dole because at least then they will get some money in.

“All we can do is finish the work we have, try to maintain confidence in the company, and hope the money comes in.

“The Government say they want to get people back into work, but they are actually forcing them on to the dole.

“This is supposed to be the year we celebrate 175 years of the industry in Wolverton. But it looks like we are going to be shutting it down instead. This town was built for the railway workers. What a disaster.”

It is claimed by unions that a short-term cash injection from the Government would have prevented the company from going into administration and saved the 119 jobs at Wolverton, plus 33 at its other depot in Glasgow.

The names of those made redundant were simply read from lists as the men stood around waiting to learn their fate last Friday.

Mark Lancaster, MP for Milton Keynes North, said in a statement to the Citizen: “I have written to the administrators of Railcare seeking confirmation that workers will be paid as soon as possible.

“While I believe the Insolvency Act guarantees minimum payments to workers, I am hopeful this will not be required to be used.

“I have also highlighted my deep concern over the manner in which the redundancies were announced and made clear that both myself and the community feel that at a very difficult time the administrators must ensure the employees are their priority.

“Whilst I know that Job Centre plus have already visited the site, I remain firmly of the view that if the company can be made a ‘going concern’ and a buyer found there is a future for railway engineering at the site and the possibility of re-employment of staff in the near future.”

Andrew Pakes, Labour & Co-operative Parliamentary Candidate for MK South, said: “The public response to the job losses at Railcare has been amazing. It has been great to see the whole community pull together.

“It is a pity that Ministers do not share local concerns that the Government should help save jobs at the depot.

“The Government’s hands-off approach to the job losses has been appalling. We need real help now to protect jobs, not promises to simply help clean up the mess.”

The people of Wolverton came out on Sunday to express solidarity and offer prayer to the workers who were made redundant, as worshippers from St George the Martyr Church lit candles and offered words of advice.

Meanwhile an online petition has been set up calling on Government Business Secretary Vince Cable to ensure all workers are paid for all periods they are owed in full and as quickly as possible. It already has more than 300 signatures.