There has been a furious backlash to the shocking news that Cleveland Bridge will close in just a few weeks.

Yesterday administrators at the  Yarm Road factory renowned the world over for its iconic structures admitted “With no current viable offers remaining to take the business on, we must now prepare for a property and asset sale. Regrettably, production will finally end on site later this month.”

Today Steve Thompkins, Senior Organiser at the GMB union which has been fighting for its members at Cleveland Bridge told The Northern Echo: “It's simply devastating news for all the workers.

“This is not the staff’s fault – the blame lies squarely with the management and owners. When the administrators were looking for a buyer it needed long-term investment but you just don’t get that easily any more. Everyone is looking for a quick fix.

Read more: Administrators confirm closure

“We are fed up of the soundbites now, we need action to help these workers and keep them here in the region otherwise we lose all that heritage.”

Jim Mawson, who was Head of Operational Delivery at the company until just a few weeks ago, also targeted management, saying: “I've watched first hand how Board Directors employed by an absentee owner based in Saudi, ran this company off a cliff edge.

“The Chief Finance Officer (Phil Heathcock) stood up as a lone voice of reason and tried to force change, championed by a team of Senior Managers, but sadly that effort was ignored and sidelined.

“Cleveland Bridge is more than just a name, but a cultural and heritage icon. The potential was there - winning work, delivering schemes, garnering trust and respect from clients throughout the country.

“But sadly the major structural and systemic issues within the wider business were not tackled by a board asleep at the wheel and unwilling to listen.”

Read more: MPs and mayor blast owners

As soon as the announcement was made, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and MPs Peter Gibson and Paul Howell had also targeted the Saudi owners and local management, saying: “Cleveland Bridge, as a great company, was brought to its knees by a disinterested, callous and detached owner and a very poor senior management team incapable of managing such a prestigious company. A perfect storm that has led the company into this irrecoverable position.”

There will be calls for inquiries into what happened, but now the focus must be firmly on finding new jobs for as many of the workforce as possible.

Councillor Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “In response to the very sad news emerging from the administrators at Cleveland Bridge, a rapid response team to help find new employment for its workers in Darlington now facing redundancy has been implemented.

“Led by Darlington Borough Council and Tees Valley Combined Authority, this multi-agency approach will work alongside Cleveland Bridge to help workers access employment, training courses and benefit from Government retraining schemes.

Read more: The devastating letter to workers

“Council representatives have met with the administrators to help smooth the way forward for employees who look set to lose their jobs at the iconic local employer.  It is hoped that by providing a co-ordinated response will help the employees find work elsewhere in the town, provide an opportunity to brush-up on key skills, and consider individual options available to everyone.

“Our priority now is to help the Cleveland Bridge employees find new employment and new opportunities and move forward in a positive way.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen added: “This is a terrible day for the dedicated and hard-working staff at Cleveland Bridge, but now is a time for action. We can’t stand idly by while those facing redundancy and their families are crying out for vital support to secure their livelihoods.

“We are working alongside Darlington Borough Council to ensure those impacted by this hugely disappointing decision have opportunities open to them, and all the information they need to take advantage of those opportunities, so they can get back into work as soon as possible. 

"A rapid response team is in place to help those who worked at Cleveland Bridge back into work as quickly possible. On top of that, many of our fantastic local companies have been in touch with my office to ask how they too can help. We’ll be working through these to see how we can link people up with any opportunities."

The North East England Chamber of Commerce has also added the considerable firepower of its 3,000 members to help affected staff. Policy Director Jonathan Walker told us: “It’s an awful end to such a great business so everyone needs all the help they can get.

“We are already alerting our members to consider staff for any vacancies they have, and I'm sure they will rally round to support a fellow member of our organisation however they can.”


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