Guest blog: Crosby MP Claire Curtis-Thomas on the closure of the biggest employer in her constituency
This week Shop Direct announced the closure of its call centre in Crosby, here the town's MP Claire Curtis-Thomas blogs for Dale Street Blues:
The sudden announcement of plans to close the Shop Direct call centre in my constituency, with the distressing loss of 1,050 jobs, marked a very sad day for Crosby and will have a massive impact on the community.
In all my years as MP for the constituency we have never suffered such a blow. Littlewoods, as everyone knew it locally, has been a vital employer for such a long time here and the call centre on Kershaw Avenue has always been a focal point for the neighbourhood.
I know that the flexible hours arrangements, the opportunity to work close to home and be paid above the minimum wage were crucial to the many female workers with families who have been employed at the centre, and such jobs will be hard to replace.
Friends of mine have worked at the call centre for many years and will, I know, be devastated so I can well appreciate the shock and distress this abrupt announcement has caused, and I can well understand the reports of employees fainting at the news.
I have already been working round the clock with many agencies, exploring every possible avenue in the hope of saving as many jobs as possible and I will continue to do everything I can to help.
That's why I have convened a summit on Monday in Crosby, bringing together the Learning Skills Council, the North West Regional Development Agency, the Mersey Partnership, the Department of Work and Pensions and the USDAW trade union to make sure that we have a comprehensive and coherent plan to do the best for all those who face redundancy.
I have also spoken to Government ministers to ensure a response at the highest level.
I'm aware that jobs like these will be difficult to replace so, as part of my discussions with Shop Direct, I will be emphasising the need to keep any jobs relocated as near as possible to the present site.
I will be speaking to their chief executive about redundancy terms and what can be done to help dismissed staff find other jobs.
I will also be working with Bootle MP Joe Benton, as he asks the company to try and increase the 250 jobs they currently propose to re-locate at their Aintree base.
The one comfort I can take from this sorry situation is that research has shown that the excellent skills possessed by those working in call centres are attractive to a wide range of employers and should help make redundant workers able to find alternative jobs.
Thankfully, the government has a lot of initiatives in place for those who find themselves in difficult situations through no fault of their own, and I would urge anyone affected to take up all offers of help.