BOSSES dropped a bombshell on staff at a Lancaster factory this week when they laid off workers an hour after they turned up for work. The night shift at the plastic mouldings firm Souplex were left stunned when managers told them their jobs had been axed. And angry employees claim they have been shabbily treated by the company which gave no warning that 32 jobs were to go.

"It's appalling the way Souplex have treated us," said one of the former employees. "We had regular team briefings but were told nothing. Some were even assured that their jobs would be safe and they've ended up being laid off. We turned up for work as normal and were told that our contracts would be terminated at midnight. They paid us for that hour and said on your way. It's a shocking way to treat people."

The wife of another worker who was made redundant said: "They didn't ask if anyone wanted to volunteer and paid no attention to people's circumstances. No one knows how they chose who to get rid of. It seems that they've got rid of a lot of workers who have been there nearly two years, when they would get more legal protection, and kept the new starters. It's shabby and unfair. They got rid of some who only had one unit left for an NVQ. It's wrong that firms can get away with treating people like this."

A statement from Souplex said that the company were keen to stress that the decision was due to customer requirements and in no way reflected dissatisfaction with Souplex's performance levels, which are thought to be second to none. The managing director, Malcolm Holmes, added: "Fluctuating business levels are symptomatic of the industry we are in. There have been occasions over the past year when we have had to take on and train new staff at very short notice due to winning new contracts, and unfortunately a number of these have now been completed or delayed."

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