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Programme highlights Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 14:33 GMT
Corus jobs saved - spin or substance?
Martin Kirke and Sir Ken Jackson
EXi's Martin Kirke and Sir Ken Jackson announce the jobs
Steelworkers facing redundancy at Corus factories in Wales and the North-East of England may be able to retrain for the telecommunications industry.

But early suggestions that as many as 4,000 might be offered jobs - out of 6,000 losing their jobs - have been dashed.

Corus steelworker Matthew Lodge with his wife Dorothy and twins Matthew and Lucy
Corus worker Matthew Lodge delivers a petition calling for a halt to plant closures
The confusion arose over plans announced today by a firm called EXi - in collaboration with the engineering workers' union, the AEEU.

EXi specialise in providing a full range of skilled staff and technical support to firms involved in cutting-edge technology, like third generation mobile telephones and high-quality internet access.

The firm's press release mentions Corus four times as a possible source of suitable trainees. No other firm is mentioned by name.

Instead, the release refers to 'employees in other sectors of manufacturing who face redundancy, including motor manufacturing'.

Retraining initiative

In his own statement, the AEEU General Secretary, Sir Ken Jackson, also singled out Corus for particular attention.

The reality, as it emerged during the morning, is less clear-cut.

EXi and the union have been working on a retraining scheme since the middle of last year. It was inspired by job-losses at firms like Vauxhall.

Links
Indeed, Corus was only contacted two weeks ago after its closure-programme was announced.

Martin Kirke, an EXi executive, confirmed to the World at One that the Corus connection was pure coincidence.

"The original discussions with the AEEU were not about any one company," he said.

And he added that Corus staff would have to compete with workers from many other industries for places on the scheme.

Mr Kirke could offer no guarantee, either, about the number of steelmen who might be found work.

'Cruel'

A rival union, the ISTC, the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, was furious.

Its General Secretary, Michael Leahy, said that it was cruel to suggest that 4,000 steelworkers might find work.

He had been aware of the proposed training scheme, but it had 'nothing to do with Corus' and its current problems.

Mr Leahy also cast doubt over the ability of EXi - a firm with 1500 workers and a 40m turnover - to expand as rapidly as it promised.

The government has declined to comment on these developments, even though the Departments of Employment and Industry have been involved in setting up the scheme.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Martin Kirke, EXi General Manager
We don't know how many of 4000 jobs will go to Corus workers
AEEU leader Sir Ken Jackson
The timing - after the Corus announcement - is a coincidence
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