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Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 11:35 GMT

UK: Scotland

Workers reel from M&S 'bombshell'

The news has stunned workers in Scotland

A union has described as a "bombshell" Marks and Spencer's decision to end a contract with a clothing firm, threatening 800 textiles jobs in Scotland.

Workers at two Daks Simpson plants are now anxiously waiting for word on their future after M&S announced the decision as part of a £400m rationalisation plan.

Ian King: "News was a bombshell"
Ian King, from the GMB union, said: "We knew there were going to be further announcements in terms of the reductions of suppliers to M&S but this was completely out of the blue and came as a bombshell to the GMB and its membership in both plants.

"There should be a commitment to a loyal workforce which has given them vast profits in the past."

Daks Simpson was told on Monday by M&S that the deal to produce clothes at two Scottish factories will finish next year. The news emerged as the high street chain revealed another major drop in profits.

[ image: Daks makes a range of clothes]
Daks makes a range of clothes
The sites at Larkhall in Lanarkshire, and Polbeth in West Lothian make trousers, jackets and skirts for the high street chain.

A spokeswoman for Daks Simpson said: "The company has been informed by Marks & Spencer that after it has completed the spring and summer 2000 orders it will no longer be a Marks & Spencer supplier."

She said the news was broken to the 2,000 workers at the two factories on Monday but could not say whether the decision by M&S would threaten jobs.

"Daks Simpson is not solely a Marks & Spencer supplier," she added.

'No reflection' on quality

"The company has its own international clothing brand and also does contract work for other firms and will be looking at increasing that contract work.

"This decision is no reflection on the quality of the product made by Daks."

[ image: Scotland's textiles industry has suffered various blows]
Scotland's textiles industry has suffered various blows
Tommy Wedlock, 32, who has worked at the Larkhall factory for 15 years, said: "We've got work till early next summer, but no one has any idea what's going to happen after that. We are absolutely gutted by it all."

Scott Hunter, 23, an employee for five years, said:"We are in all in a state of worry and what's going to happen.

"There's hardly a family in Larkhall who doesn't have a relative working in the factory."

Fruit shop owner Derek McAllister, 25, said:"The town's been trying to get back on its feet ever since Ravenscraig shut. Closing DAKS would be a disaster for us all."

Any large-scale loss of jobs would be another devastating blow to Scotland's economy with thousands having gone in the textiles industry this year alone.

Elsewhere in Scotland, 120 workers are being made redundant at the British Alcan plant at Burntisland, in Fife.

The GMB union has expressed its disappointment but said it hoped many of the jobs would go through voluntary redundancy.

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