70 workers of fire-damaged factory lose jobs

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

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MANAGEMENT of the fire-damaged Omni Industries Limited and Flexpak factory in Twickenham Park, St Catherine, yesterday sent home approximately 70 of its workers.

Noel Alcott, general manager of the company, said the workers were informed of the decision during a meeting on the compound as officials were forced to scale down operations because of the fire that affected more than 50 per cent of the company's operations.

"... As soon as we start to restore areas of our operations we will be calling back persons as soon as we can accommodate them," said Alcott, who said that counselling was being arranged for the affected workers.

It was the bad news that Nigel Marshal, 50, was not expecting to hear, although he knew the fire would cause some workers to lose their jobs.

"A 12 years me working here at this company and right now me have to start back at square one," said Marshal, who struggled to hide his emotions.

"Right now me have a 10-year-old youth to send go school and now me have to start all over," he said.

Delroy Facey, who like Marshal was among a small group of workers who had waited nervously at the gates of compound before the meeting yesterday, was distraught when he got the bad news.

"Is over 11 years me working here; it is really tough," said Facey as he rode his bicycle onto the compound to attend the meeting where management of the company informed the workers about their fate.

The decision by management did not only affect the workers at the company as Pauline Lawrence, a shop owner who operates close to the company, tried to hide her disappointment yesterday.

"Right now, a di workers dem mi depend on to sell me snacks and other items, and this news has really affected my operations," said Lawrence.

Yesterday, as the workers gathered to get the information, firefighters were still carrying out cooling-down operations at the burnt-out site.

"We were recalled to the location today after management of the company told us that they saw smoke still coming from the building after cooling down operation were carried out over the weekend," said fireman Norman Purrier of the Waterford Fire Station.

In the meantime, head of the fire department Emilio Ebanks said it would take a while before firefighters would be able to ascertain the cause of the blaze.

Ebanks said the extent of the damage and size of the warehouse were all factors that would affect the length of time in which the investigation would be completed.

The Spanish Town Police said about 3:45 Saturday morning an employee saw fire coming from a section of the premises and alerted the police and fire department, which sent units from the Spanish Town, Portmore and Old Harbour fire stations to fight the blaze.

Loss is estimated at $500 million. The property was insured.




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