Stationery Office may make job cuts

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The Independent Online
Her Majesty's Stationery Office, the privatised company which prints most Government publications, is about to announce 400 compulsory redundancies, the Labour Party claimed yesterday.

HMSO, now renamed the Stationery Office, was sold last October for pounds 54m, a third of its original asking price, to Electra Fleming, the venture capitalist group which stands to make a pounds 104m profit out of this week's sale of Eversholt, one of the privatised rail leasing companies. Electra's management team is thought to have made personal profits of pounds 5.5m from the deal.

Last November the National Publishing Group, the new company formed by Electra to bid for HMSO, announced 940 job cuts out of a total workforce of 2,500. Managers said at the time they hoped most of the job losses would be through a voluntary redundancy programme.

Hundreds of workers have already left the company, but Labour said around 400 staff would now have to be made compulsorily redundant to meet the target.

Unions are already thought to have been briefed by management on the cuts. The statutory notice period for the job cuts runs out at the weekend and it is thought the plans could be revealed to staff today.

Derek Foster, shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: "This comes just hours after Electra Fleming have walked away with massive profits from the rail sell-off. It's just blind profiteering of the most sinister kind."

Around 200 of the compulsory job cuts are thought to be at the office's main site in Norwich. Labour also said the future of the company's Manchester factory, which prints most passports, was under threat following a rival bid for the work from De La Rue, the bank note printing giant.

A spokesman for the Stationery Office said in a statement last night: "At this point we cannot confirm the number of compulsory redundancies which may ultimately be required as we continue to accept volunteers." The statement insisted the total number of compulsory job cuts was likely to be lower, at around "15-20 per cent of the total 940". However, it also said about 100 compulsory job losses had already taken place at sites with a shorter consultation period.

The sale of HMSO, like the privatised railway rolling stock companies, is currently being investigated by the National Audit Office.