AROUND 50 jobs are set to go at an East Lancashire manufacturing firm which has been hit by a downturn in businesses ordering office furniture.

Bosses at Senator International said around 5per cent of the workforce of just more than 1,000 people will be made redundant.

The group, whose head office is in Altham – with 95per cent of staff working in East Lancashire – said a drop in orders during a normally busy period had led to the announcement.

Staff were told about the redundancies on Tuesday and were meeting with management yesterday as a 30-day consultation began.

Paul Clarke, commercial director, said: “The first three months of the year are usually a busy time, but nothing is happening at the moment. In the current climate, office furniture isn’t totally necessary.

“It’s like a new kitchen, or work on your own home, you can usually hang on another year.”

Senator was founded in 1976 and is the UK’s largest manufacturer of office furniture and workplace solutions, with a turnover of £95million just two years ago.

Last year Senator’s turnover dropped just 3per cent, compared to an industry drop of 30per cent, but the early drop in orders in 2010 has led to the redundancies.

Mr Clarke said: “This is the first major redundancy programme that Senator International has had to implement in is 28-year history.

“We are confident of the future for its remaining workforce and the many local suppliers who manufacture a large proportion of its componentry.

“These measures, as unpalatable as they are, will result in a more secure future for the company and its employees.”

Graham Coxon, from the GMB union, said: “We are not officially recognised at Senator.

“We have some individual members, but they have not yet been in touch with us.”