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Fears for future of historic Sheffield fencing firm

Betafence, Shepcote Lane.
Betafence, Shepcote Lane.

Workers at a historic Sheffield fencing firm have been put in a ‘consultation process’ - amid fears the site will close with the loss of all jobs.

Betafence on Shepcote Lane, Tinsley, has launched a ‘consultation for the future’ set to last ‘at least 30 days’.

Wire at Betafence.

Wire at Betafence.

Several current and former employees have contacted The Star claiming the company plans to end manufacturing in Sheffield, scrap or move machines to Beligum where its parent company is based, and keep only a handful of sales staff.

Betafence was formerly Tinsley Wire Ltd, one of Sheffield’s largest private employers.

A Betafence spokesman said: “We can confirm that as part of a strategic review we have started a consultation process with affected employees at our factory in Sheffield.

“The Community Union, which represents some of our employees, has been informed and will be part of the consultation process in addition to employee representatives who are being elected from across the workforce.
“In line with our legal obligations, we will not be making any further statements.”

Some 89 work at the site, with 64 in production roles and 25 in the office.

An ex-worker said the place had been run into the ground.

“It is closing down, they will be pulling out of the UK, the majority of jobs will go.The place was run into the ground, with staff leaving because of working conditions.

“I could see the writing on the wall and left, one week later all the staff received a letter, they are pulling out of the UK and only the fencing division products will be sold into the UK from the factory in Belgium.

“All machinery that is not being scrapped will be moved to Belgium by the first quarter of 2019.”

Another said: “Sheffield’s first Brexit casualty? Betafence on Shepcote Lane allegedly closing completely. All machinery moved to Belgium.”

A third added: “I've been told that the remaining manufacturing staff have been put under consultation and they plan to exit the manufacture of industrial mesh and agricultural products in the Sheffield factory.”

If redundancies are made at Betafence they would follow a series of job losses and cut backs. In 2006 it closed its Sheffield Road factory where it had had operations since 1933. Ikea now stands on the site. At the time it employed 400 and blamed cheap competition from abroad  for a decline in demand. In 2006 it closed its Sheffield Road factory and wire drawing equipment was moved to Shepcote Lane where it was used with equipment to manufacture fencing, barbed wire and welded mesh.

In 2009, operations in Wigan closed and in 2016 it cut 100 jobs at Shepcote Lane as part of restructuring plans.