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I'M OFF, YOU'RE FIRED; Holiday for boss as his staff get 10 minutes' notice.

Byline: KEITH McLEOD

A COMPANY boss sacked his 65 Scots workers with just 10 minutes' notice - and went on holiday.

The clothing factory in Stranraer was opened two years ago with an investment of pounds 160,000 of public money.

Last night, the sacked workers, who say they are owed holiday and redundancy cash, were picketing the factory.

They intend to prevent any of the Grasshopper Babywear factory assets being moved out.

And members of Dumfries and Galloway Council plan to seek a court order to enforce the freeze on assets.

Yesterday, John Mato, who also has plants in Bangladesh, was believed to be back in his native India.

At the Grasshopper Holdings HQ in Wolverhampton, a receptionist said: "No one is here because of the holiday. Mr Mato cannot be contacted."

Mr Mato told workers on Thursday that the loss of a key order forced the company to seek liquidation.

But politicians and local enterprise chiefs in Stranraer yesterday condemned his decision to shut down.

Grasshopper was set up with pounds 130,000 from Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway and pounds 30,000 fromthe local council.

Jim Johnstone, of the Enterprise agency, said: "Mr Mato insisted that the investment money went to the subsiduary, not the main company. That means we cannot claw back money from the holding company.

"We will be trying to recoup our investment from the liquidators."

Sacked machinist Caroline Nelson, 38, said: "I joined only six weeks ago after having a job for 22 years. I am a mum with a mortgage to pay. Up until last week the company was still recruiting."

Supervisor Moira McCamon, 56, said: "We are determined to occupy the place 24 hours a day in shifts until Mato tells us what he plans for redundancy and holiday pay."

Council Labour group leader Tommy Sloan said: "The workers were given 10 minutes' notice and no consultation. I believe the council should seek an interdict barring Mato from moving anything from the plant."

Councillor Willie Scobie said: "It is galling that he can continue to make profits through his holding company and treat workers like this."

l In Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, 70 jobs have been saved by the sale of metal fabricators Andrew Dick & Son to Lenterprise.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 19, 2001
Words:374
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