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Workers in tears at Stoneywood paper mill as nearly 400 jobs cut with immediate effect

Image of Stoneywood Mill sign outside the site.
Further job losses at expected at the mill. Photo: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

Workers with decades of service at the historic Stoneywood paper mill in Aberdeen have been reduced to tears after it was plunged into administration once again.

Nearly 400 jobs have been cut at the site with immediate effect with staff only given 90 minutes notice of the heartbreaking news.

The site, operated by Arjowiggins Scotland Ltd, is now at risk of permanently closing its doors after previously being put into administration just three years ago.

It is understood further job losses are expected in the coming days after a potential buyer pulled out.

The Press & Journal has been told staff were made aware of the situation this afternoon.

Staff were told the news during meetings at the mill today. Photo: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

Shauna Wright, industrial officer for Unite, said: “We are saddened to hear the news about Stoneywood Mill – particularly on the anniversary of its opening 252 years ago.

“This comes as a huge blow to our members who stood by the mill through the last administration and welcomed the management buyout, which gave them so much hope for the future.

“That hope has been shattered today as we hear this afternoon that, with immediate effect, almost 400 staff have been made redundant. The administrators have apparently taken charge of the mill and will look to reduce the rest of the staff further in the coming days and weeks.”

The union has organised a meeting to offer vital support to its members following today’s announcement.

She added: “Unite has organised a mass meeting for all our members on Tuesday. We will be there to support them and offer any legal support that is required for all our members and we will be contacting them directly in the coming days with details of the venue for the meeting.”

‘It’s a total shock’

Richard Innes was told the news as he arrived for his night shift. Photo: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

Workers were only made aware of the looming announcement at 2pm today by e-mail when they were invited to a meeting at 3.30pm or 5pm, if they could not make the first one.

Outside in the car park, employees who had spent decades of their working life in the mill were facing the daunting prospect of trying to find a new career.

Richard Innes, who had worked at the mill for 35 years, said: “I was told at 4.45pm by a workmate I didn’t have a job after a buyer pulled out.

“There are 400 people here at the mill so it will be difficult to find a job. I’m 59, I’m not sure how to make a CV.

“It feels weird, I came in to do my job to be told I don’t have a job. It’s a total shock.”

‘No hope for a buyer now’

Allan Sangster. Photo: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

Preparation operator Allan Sangster, who has 28 years service at the mill, said he was “gutted” after hearing the news.

The 53-year-old said he was now considering driving taxis after losing his job five years from retirement.

He said: “To be perfectly honest, there isn’t much anyone could have done. Businesses are under so much pressure after Covid.

“We got an e-mail at 2pm saying there was a meeting at 3.30pm or 5pm if we couldn’t make the first one – that’s what got me worried.

“I don’t think there’s much hope for a buyer now. I would like to think so but I don’t think so. I don’t hold any grudges against management but some of the guys do.”

‘Didn’t think it was going to happen’

Neil Minty. Photo: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

Shift manager Neil Minty, who has 22 years service at Stoneywood, said he was now facing up to the prospect of trying to find another job – something he had never considered before.

The 47-year-old said: “I’m gutted, I really didn’t think this was going to happen. The workforce feels completely dejected by it.

“There have been men and women in tears today. Management couldn’t tell us that much.

“I’ve never thought about getting another job. We were told severance pay is decided by the government, but it’s very much up in the air.”

Covid and energy costs blamed for move

Blair Nimmo and Alistair McAlinden from Interpath Advisory were appointed joint administrators to 10 Arjowiggins Group UK subsidiaries today.

They made 368 of the 463 employees redundant immediately and have retained 95 members of staff to assist with limiting operations.

Mr Nimmo, chief executive of Interpath Advisory, shared a message on behalf of management saying they had no other option but to go into administration.

He said: “Arjowiggins has a long and proud history dating back more than 260 years, so this is immensely troubling news for UK and Scottish manufacturing.

A half-loaded lorry at the site of the mill. Picture by Paul Glendell /DC Thomson.

“Unfortunately, and following on from the severe challenges posed by the pandemic, the significant economic headwinds which have been impacting industrial manufacturing businesses up and down the country, including skyrocketing energy costs and spiralling input prices, have proved to be overwhelming for the group.”

“The management team has asked that we pass on their sincere thanks to all employees, customers and suppliers, plus Scottish Enterprise, for their strong support during these very difficult times, and they would like to express their deep regret that there was unfortunately no other option available for this historic Group.”

Mr McAlinden added that they will be working with unions, the government and job centres to provide relevant support to staff, as well as exploring options to sell the site.

Saved from administration three years ago

The mill, which is the last of its kind in Aberdeen, escaped administration just three years ago when a management buyout of the business was completed.

In September 2019, it was acquired by subsidiaries of a new venture, Creative Paper Holdings, which was formed specifically for the deal.

The business faced further difficulties during the Covid pandemic which led to 70 staff members being made redundant.

Now, north-east MSP Douglas Lumsden has lodged an urgent question in parliament stating everything must be done to protect the future of the mill.

North East MSP Douglas Lumsden. Photo: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

He said: “This is a hammer blow to the north-east economy and Scottish manufacturing.

“It’s now time for the Scottish Government to step in and help Stoneywood like they did for Ferguson shipyard.

“Stoneywood has been a very successful business in Aberdeen for more than 250 years and everything must be done to safeguard jobs and protect its future.”

Councillor Barney Crockett added: “These jobs at risk are the high-quality jobs that Scotland needs. The workforce has shown great commitment and loyalty to this business – I sincerely hope this is the time that loyalty is recognised.”

‘Devastating news’

Fellow MSP Michael Marra said: “The mill has stood here for over 250 years and is a vitally important part of the community’s history. Everything must be done to try and secure it as part of the community’s future.

“Hundreds of jobs are set to be lost. It is vital that the Scottish Government tell us now what they will do to assist families for whom this comes at the worst possible time.”

MP Richard Thomson has said he will be working with MSP Jackie Dunbar to try and organise a meeting with the administrators.

He said: “This is devastating news for the workforce and the whole team at the Stoneywood Mill. The mill has a proud history and makes specialist papers with a quality that is hard to match anywhere else.

“However, it’s clear current trading conditions, not least the recent sudden rises in the cost of energy and raw materials, have pushed the business into its present difficulties.

MSP Jackie Dunbar. Picture by Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

“Together with local MSP Jackie Dunbar I’m looking to hold an urgent meeting with the administrators to see what further might be done to help those who have been lost their jobs, and to discuss the options for preserving papermaking on the site with the aim of retaining as many jobs as possible.”

She added: “First and foremost, my concern is with the staff impacted by this announcement. I have therefore raised an urgent question of the government to seek assurances that all options which can be made available to staff are, and that the government will work to ensure staff are supported at this difficult time.

“I have also called for an urgent meeting with the management of the AW plant to discuss the practicalities of this announcement.

“I encourage anyone impacted to contact my office for advice and support at any time. I will keep constituents updated on my work.”

Government says it worked with firm to find buyer

The Scottish Government has said it will do “everything in its power” to support those who have lost their jobs as a result of the administration.

A spokeswoman said: “It is concerning that AW Creative Papers Group Ltd has entered into administration with the potential loss of around 360 jobs in Aberdeen.

“This will be a very uncertain time for the company’s staff, their families and the local areas, which will be affected by this decision.

“Scottish Enterprise has been working extensively with Arjowiggins and its partners to explore all possible options to support the business and its staff, including a sale of the business.

The entrance to the mill. Picture by Paul Glendell /DC Thomson.

“Unfortunately, a solution could not be found to turn the company’s situation around. Scottish Enterprise will work with the administrators to understand the potential options for the business going forward and explore all possibilities to rescue the jobs.

“The individuals affected by this announcement are our immediate priority and we recognise the important role they play in our economy. The Scottish Government will do everything in our power to help those affected through our initiative for responding to redundancy situations, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (Pace).

“This will include the issuing of Pace information to affected employees by the administrators and a Pace support event to be held during week commencing September 26.”