Work­ers fac­ing an un­cer­tain fu­ture at strug­gling tool maker

Ex­clu­sive

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - An Author’s Life - By Chris Price

A work bench and hand tools maker based in Ash­ford for nearly 50 years has given all its staff re­dun­dancy no­tices af­ter a down­turn in for­tunes.

Em­merich (Ber­lon) Ltd, which trades un­der the brand name Emir, told its 13 staff they face an un­cer­tain fu­ture as it un­der­goes a fi­nan­cial re­struc­ture.

The com­pany makes all its wooden hand-crafted prod­ucts at its fac­tory in Ash­ford, where it has been based since 1966, but has suf­fered as schools and col­leges have turned to dif­fer­ent sup­pli­ers.

Owner di­rec­tor Sa­man­tha Em­merich, who is the third gen­er­a­tion of her fam­ily to run the firm, said the changes in de­mand mean less man­u­fac­tur­ing space is re­quired and has “al­tered the bal­ance of skills needed in our work­force”.

She has been look­ing to sell a large part of the site on the Kingsnorth In­dus­trial Es­tate for sev­eral months, but still hopes to re­tain a large num­ber of staff when the re­struc­ture has been fi­nalised.

Ms Em­merich said: “Af­ter dis­cus­sions with em­ploy­ees and not­ing their con­cerns about the fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions for them of short-time work­ing, the de­ci­sion was made to is­sue re­dun­dancy no­tices to give em­ploy­ees the op­por­tu­nity to plan their fu­ture.

“The em­ploy­ees have been made aware of our on­go­ing ef­forts to se­cure the fu­ture of their jobs and have their re­dun- dancy with­drawn, as our mar­ket­ing strat­egy and man­u­fac­tur­ing is still in progress along with the restruc­tur­ing of the busi­ness and its premises.”

Ms Em­merich wants to take the com­pany in a new di­rec­tion, mak­ing benches for restora­tion work­shops in mu­se­ums and cut­ting ta­bles for fash­ion de­sign­ers amid de­clin­ing de­mand from schools.

She said: “The ed­u­ca­tion mar­ket, for a long time the core de­mand for our work fur­ni­ture, has trans­formed.

“Bud­getary con­straints and the dom­i­nance of IT skills in de­sign and tech­nol­ogy de­part­ments favour lighter-weight im­ported benches and ta­bles to fur­nish their class­rooms.

“Per­haps Emir is a vic­tim of its own ex­cel­lence, and of to­day’s throw­away cul­ture.

“If we were to build re­dun­dancy into our work fur­ni­ture, then it would need re­plac­ing af­ter a few years like many of our com­peti­tors.”

She added: “My con­cern for both the com­pany and its em­ploy­ees is at the heart of the cur­rent restruc­tur­ing process.

“I in­tend to be the proud owner of the Emir brand and my fam­ily busi­ness for many years to come.”

‘I in­tend to be the proud owner of the Emir brand and my fam­ily busi­ness for many years to come’

Pic­ture: Gary Browne FM3993116

Em­merich (Ber­lon) Ltd

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