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Success at getting fair redundancy payments for Avlon staff

Back in March 2019, Darren Jones, the MP for Bristol North West, first wrote to the Government sharing his concerns about Avara’s Avlon site, and their 270 staff. The Avlon site is situated just outside Darren’s constituency. A number of constituents and their family members were employed at the site.

Avara Avlon Pharmaceutical Services Ltd, the company who now own the site, had become insolvent. Since that time it become clear, despite assurances when the company was sold 3 years ago by AstraZeneca, that staff would get above-statutory redundancy payments, which they had been contractually entitled to with AstraZeneca, only statutory redundancy payments were offered by Avara.

Darren has since written to the relevant government department (BEIS) and AstraZeneca, met with Unite union reps and former employees and raised this matter in Parliament on 11th July. Darren also applied for an Adjournment Debate with the Minister of 4 occasions (each attempt was unsuccessful) and worked with The Times to raise awareness of this gross unfairness. The Times have since ran several pieces on this matter this week.

Following these efforts, and those of former employees and Unite, Darren received for following statement from former owner, AstraZeneca:

Statement from AstraZeneca (17th July 2019):

We have decided to set aside funding of up to £12m, to be administered independently, to make sure our former employees at the Avlon site receive full severance should the ongoing administration of the site not generate enough funds to cover redundancy costs.

AstraZeneca remained closely involved in helping secure a future for the Avlon site following the sale to Avara, which was made in good faith in 2016. We have been engaged with the receivers since the company fell into administration. Last week, the deadline for bids for the site was reached and, since then, it has become apparent that there may not be sufficient funds to meet the redundancy costs of our former employees. 

Our success relies on the commitment and talent of our employees and our many partners in the UK and around the world who share our passion for science and for making a difference to the lives of patients.

Darren said:

“I’m delighted that after months of hard work from workers and unions, and my interventions with Astra Zeneca and the government, that workers are being paid the redundancy packages they deserve.

Whilst it should not have taken this level of intervention before employees got what they had been promised, I thank Astra Zeneca for listening, responding and making the right call.”

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Watch: Darren presses Government over Avlon redundancies

Staff at the Avlon pharmaceuticals plant, which was recently put into administration by its American owners, were promised that should the facility fail, they would be entitled to a full redundancy package – but are now being forced to leave on statutory pay only. This unjust situation can still be avoided if the plant’s former owners AstraZeneca choose to enforce the previously negotiated guarantee, but it may take some pressure from Government. That’s why Darren’s been writing to Business Ministers and trying for weeks to secure a debate in Parliament — and this morning raised the issue directly with the Leader of the House of Commons, Mel Stride.

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Darren comments on Henleaze bank closure

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has expressed his concern about Lloyds’ decision to close the Henleaze branch from 1st October 2019.

Darren Jones MP said:

“I’ve just been made aware that the Lloyds Bank branch in Henleaze will be closing on 1st October. Whilst I understand the nearest Post Office is a short walk away, I know it’s a small branch and often very busy. Equally, the nearest Lloyds Bank branch will be at least a 15/20 minute walk or 10 minute walk and bus ride away.

This is far from ideal and will make offline banking very challenging for the customers, many of whom are elderly or have mobility issues, who rely on their local bank.

Lloyds have told me that the counters at Henleaze are 5% quieter than they were a year ago and roughly 308 customers use the branch on a regular monthly basis. Whilst it is inevitable, that as people move online, less people use their local bank, we need to ensure those that can’t bank online or don’t feel able to are supported and have access to local services.

I will be meeting with the team from Lloyds to discuss their decision asap.”

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Darren backs Lift The Ban

Darren Jones, the MP for Bristol North West, has spoken out in favour of allowing asylum seekers the right to work – and contribute to the UK by paying taxes – whilst their applications are assessed.

At present, the law prevents asylum seekers from working whilst their claims are assessed and that can take years. All the whilst, asylum seekers get just £37.75 per week loaded onto a card to live on as well as (often very basic and crowded) accommodation. In cities, where costs are high and £37 will just about feed a person, asylum seekers struggle to use public transport, buy toiletries and clothe themselves and have to rely on charities for the very basics. They are prevented from earning more money to improve their situation.

Darren said:

“Today, I’ve received an interesting report from ACH that ran a pilot project in Bristol focused on supporting asylum seekers with job-hunting skills such as writing CV’s, employment rights and linking them to variety of local employers. The project found:

1- Most asylum seekers have the levels of English that would be required in the workplace.
2- Asylum seekers often had high levels of education and skills from their home countries and have training and work experiences that would be of use to the UK.
3- Everyone in the project wanted to contribute to the UK instead of taking government money and being unemployed. There were high levels of attendance at all visits with employers and meetings.

By stopping asylum seekers from working, I sense we’re frankly cutting off our nose to spite our face and creating a group of people who feel powerless to change their situation or contribute to a country they wish to make their home. This has got to change – we must lift the ban”.

You can find out more about ACH by visiting: www.ach.org.uk/

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Darren contacts Government on Avara

Darren wrote to the Government on his concerns around the future of the Avara site near Bristol. This is what he said:

Dear Secretary of State,

A number of constituents have contacted me regarding the insolvency of Avara Avlon Pharmaceutical Services Ltd, a pharmaceutical company that employs 270 people in Bristol.

The constituents who have contacted me are concerned about the cost of the clean out and clean-up of the site they use, and the fact that taxpayers may have to foot the bill for doing this. I am told that Avara Avlon is classed under the Control of Major Accident Incident (COMAH) Regulations as upper tier due to the inventory of toxic materials. In order to close the site in a safe manner all flammable and toxic material will have to be removed from site, the chemical plant and storage tanks cleaned and the effluent waste safely disposed of, and then the site can either be mothballed or demolished. The demolition option will require skilled personnel as there is a significant amount of asbestos in the older plant and buildings to be dealt with. The land will then need to be returned to as near original condition which may involve the removal of contaminated soil.

The constituents who have contacted me request that there is a change to the law to make it illegal to transfer ownership of a high hazard site to a third party without firstly posting a bond with either a Government department or agency, to cover all costs associated with closing down, cleaning out and remediating a site.  That would then stop the bill being picked up by the Government in the future – is this something that the Government will consider introducing?

Thanks for taking the time to read my email and I look forward to receiving your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Darren Jones MP

Member of Parliament for Bristol North West”

And here’s the Government response:

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Darren backs Unions in Heart Unions Week

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Darren took the opportunity to have a photo with Labour South West colleagues demonstrating support for Heart Unions Week, the TUC’s week of activity focusing on the good work that unions do.

Darren wrote on Facebook:

I often meet with union organisers in work places right across my constituency: from Unite the Union at Airbus/GKN/Rolls Royce, USDAW at Tesco’s distribution centre and Unison at Southmead Hospital. And this week GMB secured a great deal for workers at Hermes, who also have a site in Avonmouth.

Unions aren’t as popular as they used to be, and young people aren’t signing up as members as much as they did. But they can play a vital role in securing better pay and work conditions, and offer lots of training and development opportunities for those that want to learn new skills.

If you aren’t a member of a trade union, and want to find out more please visit: www.tuc.org.uk/about-heartunions-week

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Darren calls for Living Wage at Sports Clubs

Bristol North West MP, Darren Jones has backed the campaign to call on Rugby Clubs to pay their staff the living wage. Shockingly, 6 in 10 football clubs don’t – this is despite an average turnover of £233 million.

Darren said:

“Everyone working should get paid the per hour living wage. It’s concerning and unacceptable that a number of very well-off football and other sports clubs don’t pay their staff the living wage – despite making billions of profit between them. This must change and I am proud to support that campaign by signing this letter in advance of the Six Nations”.

 

 

 

 

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Darren demands People’s Vote in light of Airbus concerns

Airbus employ 14,000 people in the UK, including 3,000 at Filton near Bristol. Today their chief executive criticised the UK Government’s handling of Brexit, calling it “a disgrace”, and saying that there was a possibility of them moving out of the country. That would have implications for hundreds if not thousands of Bristolians, damaging the network of manufacturing businesses in the area.

The matter came to Parliament in an urgent question, and Darren criticised Brexit’s impact on jobs and called for a People’s Vote.

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Darren asks for £1bn for nurse training

Cuts to nursing bursaries are resulting in negative outcomes for student nurses and patients who rely on there being sufficient staffing. Darren wrote to the Health Secretary to ask him to fund nurse training properly.
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