HR chief defends talks over Corus job losses

The personnel director of steel
giant Corus has countered criticism with a claim that the company made every
effort to consult with staff before it announced over 6,000 redundancies.

The company starts its 90-day
consultation period with unions and staff tomorrow, two weeks after announcing
the cuts. Under current UK law, companies must consult with employees for 90
days following a mass redundancy announcement. 

Allan Johnston, personnel
director of Corus, told Personnel Today that staff are "generally happy"
with the efforts the company made to inform them of the restructuring. 

Most staff heard the news from
the management, despite intense pressure from the media and politicians for
prior disclosure of the plans, Johnston claimed.

The dilemma that Corus has
faced highlights the difficulty of staff consultation for HR in a competitive
commercial environment.

Johnston said, "Obviously,
once announced, the proposals were big news and were straight on the news wires
within one minute, but not before consultative meetings had begun in every
plant affected.

"It is inevitable, sadly,
because we are a 24-hour working industry, that some of our employees heard
first on the news since they were not on site, but we had set up a freephone
service and e-mailed everybody at exactly 9am on the day."

Corus, which had an operating
loss of over £300m in the nine months up to July 2000, blames the job cuts on
lowered demand in the domestic market, high transportation costs and the
strength of the pound.

This week, steelworkers at
Corus’ Scunthorpe plant voted for strike action in protest at 100 compulsory
job losses. But this ballot, called by the ISTC union, was in protest at cuts
announced at the factory last year, before the company revealed plans for its
current restructuring. 

Mike Broad

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