Call goes out for 2,000 in jobs scheme

Co-Operative Bank yesterday announced a plan to get the long-term unemployed back to work, the most novel scheme among a raft of new job creation plans by industries in the North- west, South Wales, Northern Ireland and the Midlands. Altogether, the announcements will bring 2,000 new jobs in a variety of businesses.

The bank, which prides itself on its "ethical" approach to banking, is targeting the long-term unemployed and "high-quality" short-term unemployed for 200 new jobs at its telephone banking operation in Stockport.

The Co-Op's call centre on the edge of the M56 in Southport opened last year and of the staff hired at the time some 30 per cent were previously unemployed. The bank will work with Stockport Borough Council and Stockport and High Peak Training and Enterprise Council (TEC).

"Earlier this week the Commission on Public Policy and British Business stressed the importance of tackling unemployment because it is a drag on the competitiveness of Britain," said Terry Thomas, managing director of the Co-Op Bank.

"This partnership with organisations from the local community has demonstrated that business can play a role in helping unemployed people by giving a genuine opportunity to compete in the recruitment process."

Meanwhile, Parcelforce is creating the largest chunk of the 2,000 jobs announced yesterday as a result of a pounds 100m investment in a new distribution centre in Coventry.

This is the biggest single investment by Parcelforce and will create 700 jobs, although it could cause some to be axed from other centres in Peterborough and Birmingham over the next three years.

In Northern Ireland, Shorts, the aerospace company, expects to create up to 600 jobs on the back of a new aircraft contract. Bombardier, the Canadian owner of Shorts, said that the factory in Belfast would be involved in a new 70-seat regional jet.

Shorts will carry out design work and produce fuselages for the aircraft, which is due to take to the air by the turn of the millennium.

Meanwhile, in Merthyr Tydil, south Wales, almost 700 jobs will be created at a new meat processing plant. Also in south Wales, Bisley Office Equipment, the UK's largest manufacturer and exporter of office furniture and equipment, is to create 150 jobs through a pounds 10m investment programme to expand its factory in Newport.

In Merthyr, St Merryn Meat, which supplies meat to supermarket giant Tesco, announced it was investing more than pounds 25m to build one of the largest meat processing plants in Europe on reclaimed land. The company employs nearly 1,000 workers mainly in the South-west of England and plans to take on another 663 in Merthyr.

And separately across the border in Gloucester 100 new jobs will become available as result of a pounds 25m investment in a motor parts factory.

Gillian Shephard, education and employment secretary, said: "We are reaping the rewards of a flexible labour market with no Social Chapter and no national minimum wage. Today's news is particularly welcome as it shows the benefits are being enjoyed across the country."

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