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The Welsh Government will provide advice and support to workers affected by Bedwas’ Bearmach Ltd entering administration, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething has confirmed.
Bearmach, which is a supplier of Land Rover spare parts based at Pantglas Industrial Estate, entered administration on September 6.
A total of 51 people have been made redundant, while 18 staff have been kept on to wind down operations of the 64-year-old firm.
Mr Gething faced questions about the firm’s closure in the Senedd on Wednesday, September 21.
Caerphilly’s Labour MS Hefin David posed questions to the minister, as did Plaid Cymru’s regional MS for South Wales East, Peredur Owen Griffiths.
“Up to 89 people will be affected”
Responding to a question put to him by Dr David, Mr Gething said Working Wales advisors had “provided on-site support to Bearmach employees over a three-week period, and we will continue to work with staff affected, providing advice and support.”
He added: “It’s my understanding that up to 89 people will be affected by this company closure and are facing redundancy.”
Dr David said it was “very disappointing news for the local economy in Bedwas and the surrounding area” and asked what Mr Gething was planning to do to “further support the economy in the area around Pantglas and Bedwas particularly”.
He also asked Mr Gething to give a “further assessment” of the impact of Bearmach’s closure on the workforce and local community, and asked for clarity on what support will be made available to workers left without a job.
In his response, Mr Gething said it was his understanding that a “limited number” of employees were being kept on to support the firm’s closure and remove stock from the site.
He said the Welsh Government was working with Careers Wales, trade unions and the Job Centre to provide “tailored” information, advice and guidance to those affected.
He urged people wanting more information to contact Working Wales on 08000 284844.
Mr Gething said: “We’re looking to enhance the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises in the local area as well, so that there are, we hope, alternative sources of employment.
“Part of my concern is that whilst the labour market is currently very tight, if the forecasts from a range of economists from the Bank of England are right, we could face a number of similar situations facing the economy in the coming weeks and months.”
“A once successful company that has been unable to weather tough economic conditions“
Speaking in the Senedd, Mr Owen Griffiths said Bearmach has “been a good local employer for many years in the Bedwas and Trethomas area”.
He raised concerns over the status of agency staff working at the firm, who he said have “now lost their income at the worst possible time”.
Mr Owen Griffiths, said the news was a “blow to local businesses who worked in tandem with Bearmach or benefitted from workers spending their money in the local community”.
Posing his questions to the minister, the Plaid MS asked whether Bearmach had approached the Welsh Government for assistance and what support was offered.
He also asked: “Has the closure of Bearmach – a once successful company that has been unable to weather tough economic conditions – prompted any rethink in the Government’s prioritisation of the car industry as a driver of the Welsh economy?”
Mr Gething answered to say there had not been any prior discussions with Bearmach, with the Welsh Government not made aware in advance of any immediate site closure.
He said: “I’ve met with my own officials, and there weren’t early warning signals. There wasn’t engagement with the company in the longer term or even the short term in advance; we were aware of the closure when it took place.”
He also said the Welsh Government does see the automotive sector “as a significant part of the Welsh economy moving forward” but said it was “obviously vulnerable to some of the changes taking place, in particular the changes in our trading relationships with Europe”.
He explained: “That has made a number of parts of the sector more vulnerable. But it will be a period of change for the sector, and there are opportunities, moving forward, in new methods of propulsion with the significant strength we still maintain here as part of the economy, and, indeed, part of the broader manufacturing picture.”
Speaking about agency workers, he said those who had been at Bearmach long enough can claim permanent status in order to get redundancy protection and become entitled to payments.
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Bearmach – a 64-year-old company
Bearmach started life in 1958 in an office in London by Karabet Torosyan.
By 1962, the company had grown and moved to bigger premises at Southpark Road, Wimbledon – a large, two-storey building with 278 square m of floor space for offices, warehouse and packing departments.
Following several other moves throughout the decades to accomodate growth, the company eventually found its way to Bedwas in 2002.
In 2005, Bearmach was named Welsh Exporter of the Year in the Business Awards for Wales and in 2007 was bought by Grove Industries.
In 2016 the company opened an office in China and in 2018 celebrated its 60th anniversary with a celebratory event at Caerphilly Castle. At the time it reported having more than 150 members of staff.
According to the latest set of accounts filed at Companies House for the year ending 2020, the company had an average monthly staff number of 130 – down from 140 in 2019.
It reported a turnover of £31.7 million and a loss of £700,000. This compared to 2019 when it had a £37.2m turnover and a profit of £113,000.
In those documents, auditors Grant Thornton drew attention to uncertainties surrounding the impact of Covid and Brexit – although it agreed with the opinion of directors that the company would be able to continue as a going concern. This opinion was approved by the board in September 2021.
According to these same documents, the company was undergoing a restructure during 2021 with redundancies made and a concentration on more profitable areas of the business.
After administration was announced, Caerphilly’s Labour MP Wayne David expressed his disappointment and said: “Bearmach weathered the storm of Covid, but the announcement that they are going into administration is really bad news for the area.
“Bearmach is a well-established company and there needs to be a huge effort to help the workforce find alternative employment quickly. I will do whatever I can to help.”
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