A MEETING on Wednesday morning will finally shine some light on the future of more than 200 workers at the crisis-hit Cleveland Bridge factory in Darlington.

Unions, management, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, Darlington MP Peter Gibson and Sedgefield MP Paul Howell will assemble at the Yarm Road site ahead of the Thursday deadline for any possible buyers. The company's administrators have so far confirmed "significant interest from potential investors".

They have also held a meeting with employees to further update them on progress, and added this afternoon: "The meeting is part of the Joint Administrators’ ongoing communication with key stakeholders on the progress of the administration."

If that comes to something tangible, workers who gathered at the site today to try to find some answers will want to know details and timings, but if no deal can be pulled together in time, then redundancies will be the only option.

The GMB union said the situation was a 'hammer blow' for the region.

Senior Organiser Steve Thompkins told The Northern Echo this morning: "Cleveland Bridge was one of the bright spots, a shining light among so much bad news.

"We have to try to stay optimistic, but we desperately need some good news. The union is digging deep to try to see find out the root cause.

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"The orders are there, but the money isn't, so we need to have workers in the factory to start making things."

He said one immediate challenge was that the rare high-level skills workers had built up over their careers were highly sought after and rival firms had already been in touch to  offer roles. If there was an understandable exodus of staff the core of the firm would be stripped away and any potential deal would be all the more difficult to pull together.

So there needs to be clear progress on Wednesday before it is too late and the company  is shattered beyond repair.

The Northern Echo: Work at the site can continueWork at the site can continue

One glimmer of hope is that money has been found to pay for that essential ongoing production at the site - at least in the short term.

The Administrators have secured funding through financing company 4Syte, "to ensure the payment of essential workers who have been retained to assist with the operation of the business as the Joint Administrators work to secure its future."

The funding will also enable the essential workers to be placed on furlough, with their consent, and receive payment through the coronavirus job retention scheme.

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Joint Administrator Martyn Pullin said: “We’re grateful to 4Syte for their support, which helps to protect a number of jobs while we are actively seeking investors to secure the future of the business. Cleveland Bridge UK has an incredible track record of engineering excellence and we have already seen significant interest from potential investors in the UK and across the globe and have begun initial conversations with a number of interested parties.”

But it seems that there isn't even enough money to pay other wages at the moment. The Northern Echo understands there are salaries and wages outstanding for work done before the shock announcment.

Administrators have explained to staff that they are protected under the Employment Rights Act, and if it is necessary to make redundancies, they will be able to make claims through the Redundancy Payments Office.