Fight is on to save town jobs

SP88420  Autowindscreens -  Chesterfield
SP88420 Autowindscreens - Chesterfield

DESPERATE battle is underway to save 400 at risk jobs after one of Chesterfield’s biggest employers went into administration.

Stunned staff at Auto Windscreens, in Hasland, were left devastated after learning the firm was in crisis this week.

Speaking to the Derbyshire Times, mum Louise Cater (50), a customer care handler at the firm, said: “A lot of people were in tears, I was in tears.

“One minute we had a job, the next minute we were in limbo.”

Now administrators are in “urgent” talks with key stakeholders and interested parties in a bid to rescue the business – which said it had suspended all operations temporarily – as jobs hang in the balance.

And town leaders are joining forces in a bid to safeguard jobs at Auto Windscreens, which is the country’s second biggest windscreen repair firm.

STAFF at a major Chesterfield firm have been left in limbo after the business hit financial difficulties this week.

Workers at Auto Windscreens broke down in tears when they learned the company had gone into administration on Monday.

Unstone mum-of-one Louise Cater (50), who has worked at Auto Windscreens since January 2010, said: “We found out the news in a briefing then went to clear our desks and left the building, possibly for the last time. A lot of people were in tears, I was in tears. One minute we had a job, the next minute we were in limbo.

“Everyone is down, very down and feeling hurt and worried. We don’t know what’s going to happen. There are people with pensions, people who have been employees for many years. What’s going to happen to them, where are they going to work? There aren’t a great deal of jobs in Chesterfield.”

The firm, which employs around 1,100 people across the UK but has its headquarters in Hasland, called in the administrators, Deloitte, after suffering a cash flow crisis sparked by delays to the implementation of new IT systems and lower-than-expected sales revenues at the end of 2010.

On top of that, a major customer terminated its contract with Auto Windscreens and the company received a winding up petition from a large creditor. All these factors meant management was unable to continue trading.

A Deloitte spokesman said: “Unfortunately, currently, there are no funds available to be able to continue to trade the business.

“It’s extremely disappointing to see such a well-known business enter administration. The company worked hard to try and recapitalise the business but unfortunately this couldn’t be achieved in the time available.”

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins told the Derbyshire Times he had met with business minister Mark Prisk to call on the Government to meet with him and Deloitte to discuss ways of rescuing the firm.

“If we were to lose 400 jobs, that would be catastrophic for Chesterfield,” Mr Perkins said.

“There’s a strong possibility that we’re going to lose these jobs and we need to fight to try and prevent that happening,” he added.

Auto Windscreens, situated on Storforth Lane, has a long-standing relationship with Chesterfield and was due to celebrate its 40th birthday this year.

Cllr Ray Russell, leader of Chesterfield Borough Council, added: “Our thoughts are with the workers and their families at this difficult time.

“We’re in contact with the company and the administrators to see how we can help should the situation result in job losses, and we have made plans to work with the local Jobcentre Plus to provide support if this becomes necessary.”

The president of Chesterfield Trades Union Congress, James Eaden, said the news was “disturbing” and added: “We need to fight for every job.”

George Cowcher, chief executive of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, said the potential job losses and the closure of the site would be a “blow” to the local economy.

The shock news comes as figures show the unemployment claimant count in Chesterfield rose to 2,401 last month – up from 2,308 in December.

Deloitte has set up an employee hotline on (01246) 223000.

Customers have been advised to contact alternative firms.