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Union resigned to loss of firm in town

PUBLISHED: 00:30 10 October 2001 | UPDATED: 15:18 03 March 2010

UNION leaders say workers are in a despondent mood at a Felixstowe firm which is pulling out of the town, and their bosses fatalistic.

They do not believe they have a chance of persuading smart card company SchlumbergerSema to change its plans and say it would be unfair to raise workers' hopes that there is a battle to be won.

UNION leaders say workers are in a despondent mood at a Felixstowe firm which is pulling out of the town, and their bosses fatalistic.

They do not believe they have a chance of persuading smart card company SchlumbergerSema to change its plans and say it would be unfair to raise workers' hopes that there is a battle to be won.

Instead, officers of the Graphical, Paper and Media Union (GPMU) are working to secure their members the best relocation and redundancy deals possible, and to help those needing new jobs to find alternative employment.

SchlumbergerSema is moving its operations to Fareham, Hampshire, where it has a newer and larger factory.

Management are hoping many of the 156 employees will decide to move with the firm – and say substantial relocation packages and support are being offered to persuade workers to uproot their families and move south.

The decision has apparently been taken because of a collapse in telephone card markets and other security card business throughout the industry in Europe.

The factory in Carr Road opened about three years ago, making computer-chip cards able to store all kinds of information for banks, industry and governments. The centre handles every step in the complex chain from plastic card production, printing and embossing; magnetic stripe and chip personalisation; linking the card with a personal letter; and sending the card to the customer.

A GPMU spokesman said Schlumberger was very keen for staff to move to Fareham and was offering relocation packages to all key production staff.

"Our aim, as their representatives, is to get the best compensation package that we can for them," said the union spokesman.

"We will be discussing this with the management over the next few weeks but there is no definitive decision yet.

"We have spoken to our members and they are quite despondent. If there was a slight chance in the company staying open we would enter into negotiations with the company.

"But I think it would be unrealistic now to expect the company to stay open and their attitude is a little bit fatalistic, and I would not like to give members an impression of hope when I don't think there is any."

As a result of relocation, which will take about six to nine months, there will be a "limited overall reduction" of numbers – mainly management and support staff, but it is hoped this will be achieved without compulsory redundancies.

The company has said the relocation package for employees will include an information room, website, relocation interviews, a site visit to Fareham and overnight stay, housing uplift/mortgage assistance, disturbance payments, relocation assistance, and moving expenses.

Redundancy packages will include enhanced, minimum double statutory pay, plus additional payments relating to working through the transition period.

The company is also giving counselling support, and running job shops to help workers who do not want to move find new jobs, CV preparation, and working with local employers to find alternative employment for people.

Schlumberger employs 89,000 people in 160 countries, working in the oil and gas fields, IT technology, electricity metering and systems, and smart cards.

Its other Felixstowe centre, Schlumberger RMS, also in Carr Road, employs around 300 people and makes state-of-the-art electricity measurement equipment, and will be carrying on as normal.

WEBLINK: www.slb.com

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