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UNION leaders have blamed Marks & Spencer for a textile group's decision to axe 1,900 jobs.

They branded Trade Secretary Stephen Byers "anti-family" as the mainly female workforce at Coats Viyella faced redundancy.

Coats said 1,544 jobs will be lost with the closure of factories at Shepshed, Leics, Ollerton and Worksop, Notts, and Scunthorpe Lincs, as it pulls out of the contract clothing business, with other losses elsewhere.

Paul Gates, general secretary of the textile union KFAT, said: "There can be little doubt it was pressure from Marks & Spencer for a further price cut which pushed Coats into making this decision.

"Not content with telling suppliers they will be paid two per cent less for autumn season orders, we have learnt M&S now want an even bigger mark up."

But an M&S spokesman said: "This is their decision and their primary responsibility is to their staff."

GMB leader John Edmonds accused Mr Byers of deserting Labour's family-friendly policy and giving priority to job threats to "male car workers".

Mr Edmonds told The Mirror: "Will Stephen Byers intervene in the same way he did at Longbridge and for the coalminers or will he simply walk by?

"The only difference is the textile workers are women and the car workers are mostly male."

"This is a defining moment for family-friendly policies. Thousands of women who are breadwinners now face the dole."
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Author:Blackman, Oonagh
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 7, 2000
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