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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Axe falls on ITV Digital staff
ITV Digital call centre workers in Pembroke Dock who have lost their jobs
It was an emotional last day for call centre workers
More than 1,000 people at the ITV Digital call centre in Pembroke Dock have lost their jobs following the collapse of the company.

The troubled broadcaster had been in administration for a month and switched off its pay-TV channels at 0700 BST on Wednesday morning.

ITV Digital call centre worker, Pembroke Dock
Young people have few career choices locally

The jobs affected include 900 customer service representatives and around 150 managerial and technical support staff.

Employment agency Manpower, which employed the frontline call centre staff, has set up a temporary job centre at the site to help them look for alternative work.

It said everyone would be paid their full period of notice, which ranged from a week to a month.

Hopes dashed

The call centre, run under contract by Manpower and 7C, was the biggest private employer in Pembrokeshire.

Opened by Prince Philip only three years ago, It was seen as a saviour following the loss of thousands of jobs in heavy industry in recent years.

The closure follows the announcement on Tuesday of nearly 300 redundancies at an aerospace plant at Llanelli in Carmarthenshire.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan:
First Minister Rhodri Morgan: Successor company

The purpose-built centre was developed with Welsh Development Agency grant aid to counter the flow of jobs out of west Wales.

The total job losses resulting from the failure of ITV digital are widespread.

Along with the Pembrokeshire workforce, around 225 staff at ITV Digital's London HQ have lost their jobs.

Another 500 at the channel's other call centre in Plymouth are still working but likely to be made redundant in the next few weeks.

Several Nationwide Football league clubs have been forced to sack staff and release players following the loss of income from a broadcast deal with ITV Digital.

Cautious optimism

However, political leaders in Wales are looking positively to the future.

Pembroke Dock Mayor Don Esmond said that while the news was "devastating", they now had 1,000 staff "ready and waiting for new jobs."

Nick Ainger, the Carmarthenshire West and Pembrokeshire South MP, said it was a "world-class centre with a world-class workforce."

Pembroke Dock Mayor Don Esmond:
Pembroke Dock Mayor Don Esmond: 'Devastating'

He had been trawling round Whitehall and talking to the Department for Works and Pensions to see if there is any contract work which could provide new clients.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan, however, sounded a note of caution as the efforts begin to find new tenants for the Cleddau Centre.

"Its clear that there has to be a successor company because digital terrestrial has to continue," said Mr Morgan.

"But whether it will continue in a shape that still needs 1,000 people to run it is the big question looming over Pembroke Dock."

A Manpower spokeswoman said there was no immediate prospect of a new client for the call centre although.

But she said she was "cautiously optimistic" as a number of companies had expressed interest and had been shown around the facility.

'Safeguard employees'

Workers off-shift were called in to hear the news on Tuesday just a day after a delegation of Welsh politicians visited to discuss the possibility of EU aid.

Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans and Welsh Assembly Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies were at the centre to meet the taskforce set up to safeguard employees in the wake of the firm's financial crisis.

ITV Digital, launched as ONdigital in 1998, has always struggled to compete with satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

The crisis came to a head when ITV Digital said it could not afford to pay the remaining 178.5m it owed the Football League for a three-year broadcast rights deal.

Its owners - Carlton and Granada - deny any liability for the company's debts.

The company had more than a million subscribers, although it was reported to be losing 4,000 customers a day in its final weeks.

BBC Wales's Hywel Griffith
"After a month of trying to carry on as normal, today the strain finally took its toll"
See also:

01 May 02 | Business
ITV Digital switches off
30 Apr 02 | Wales
Plug pulled on Cyber Bay?
30 Apr 02 | Wales
Workers 'confused and angry'
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