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The Reyrolle Story: 54 - Work Going Abroad

The last year of the century brought further redundancies as the Tyneside manufacturing concern Reyrolle continued to decline.

To purchase a copy of Robert Owen's history of the firm please click on

Only a few months later, Dr Jones was forced to eat his own words, when, in January 1999, over 90 redundancies were announced. Fierce foreign competition, the economic crisis in south-east Asia and the strength of the pound were all blamed by the Company for the sudden change of direction.

Many employees thought they had been deceived and one long serving worker verbally attacked the MD saying "Now he has got his OBE (in the New Year Honours List) he has started to tell the truth."

Another worker with more than twenty years service said "Work is increasingly being subcontracted abroad and people in the medium switchgear section feel they are being sold down the line".

Mel Barras, Regional Officer for the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) also criticised the Company saying "I am absolutely disgusted the way the firm has announced these redundancies without formally consulting the Union. They informed the Press before the AEEU".

On a lighter note, when Ken Pawsey, the nephew of Geo Pawsey who started work with Alphonse Reyrolle in London in 1899, retired after 48 years service in 1999, he created his own unique record by ensuring that for 100 years, the Pawsey family were represented among the Company's employees.

In 1998 a former Reyrolle employee was appointed to a junior post in Tony Blair's Labour Government. David Clelland was originally an electrical tester and Shop Steward at Reyrolle. His political career took him to Gateshead, first as Councillor and then as Mayor. Member of Parliament for the Tyne Bridge constituency followed before he was appointed Junior Whip. David was married for over 30 years having met his wife at Reyrolle in 1965.

The twenty-first Century started by the Bushing Company, which had been part of the Reyrolle organisation for nearly 80 years, being sold to the Canadian-based firm TRENCH. A VA TECH spokesman said "This was to allow us to concentrate on other manufacturing aspects of the business". VATECH Reyrolle workforce was now down to less than 1000.


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