Axminster Carpets' financial woes could spell 'disaster' for the region (From Bridport and Lyme Regis News)
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Axminster Carpets' financial woes could spell 'disaster' for the region
A 'DISASTER' is looming for West Dorset and East Devon as 400 jobs are at risk at Axminster Carpets.
The East Devon company last week confirmed its intention to appoint administrators while company bosses explore a rescue package.
Workers and trade union representatives took to the streets on Saturday to launch the 'Save Axminster Carpets' campaign.
Staff remain positive about the future and have called on the country not to 'abandon' them.
They were given hope on Monday when administrators working to save the company secured the future of a related commercial tannery business.
The business and assets of Devonia, based in Buckfastleigh, Devon have been sold to Eastern Counties Leather.
Duff & Phelps were appointed administrators to Devonia on Monday and the immediate sale has secured 20 jobs.
The Citizens Advice Bureau is bracing itself for an increase in people needing help in the coming weeks and is increasing its presence in Lyme Regis.
Martin Paley, manager of Bridport and District CAB, said: “A lot of people who live in West Dorset work there and it is the knock-on effect on industries and how it affects everybody else.
“We are trying to see if we can increase our presence in Lyme Regis to cope with what we perceive an upturn in people coming for help, redundancy payments, etc.
“If you have 400 people who work in Axminster Carpets that is 400 families - their spending power affects shops, cafés, restaurants, greengrocers, everything.
“It is a disaster for East Devon and West Dorset, 400 jobs possibly going in one fell swoop. It is going to have a dramatic effect.”
The company is continuing to trade while it looks into all potential rescue and restructuring options and the trade union Community has entered into talks with bosses.
Lorraine Gaskell, Community's local full time officer, said there is 'great concern among the workforce'.
She said: “We will be working closely with the company and the administrator in the days ahead to secure the jobs of all those who work there and to find a solution to the current difficulties.”
But workers have stressed it is business as usual.
Community union secretary Derek Banker, who has worked at Axminster Carpets for 20 years, said: “Even though things are being done behind the scenes we are still open for business.
“We don't want customers to think we are not open and not buy carpets because that will make things worse.
“We just need the country to know we are open and don't abandon us.”
Mr Banker said they were 'absolutely amazed' by the response from the public on Saturday when hundreds of workers and their families rallied in Axminster town centre.
They collected signatures on their petition, which calls on the Government to save the historic firm by supporting the carpet industry in the country.
They gathered outside the Guildhall before parading through the town following a lorry.
Mr Banker said: “We want to give the petition to our local Conservative MP Neil Parish to pass on and debate, asking the Government to help the carpet industry in this country and keep contracts in the country.
“It's not just the carpet factory that will be affected - it will have a knock-on effect for other towns too.
“Saturday was only the start of our campaign, we are going to all the surrounding towns like Seaton and Lyme.”
The petition can be signed online at community-tu.org Axminster method carpets and rugs were first made by Thomas Whitty in the town in 1755, but the factory burnt down in the 1830s.
Carpet manufacturer Harry Dutfield re-launched carpet manufacturing in Axminster in 1937.