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John White - Decline

The Rushden Echo, 25th January 1963, transcribed by Jim Hollis

184 John White workers sacked

workers leaving
The mass dismissal of 184 workers, 89 of them mostly women on part-time was announced at the weekend by John White (Footwear) Ltd, Higham Ferrers. On Tuesday the firm said it would have to close its factory in Dale Street, Wellingborough. But none of the seventy employees there would become redundant.

A Ministry of Labour spokesman said the prospects for the skilled men and women, whose notices expire tonight, were hopeful, although it would be rather difficult to find alternative work for the unskilled and semi-skilled among the 184 dismissed.

Mr. D. Stratton, manager of Rushden Labour Exchange, added: “There are no opportunities for outdoor work at the moment, and there are few openings in other industries but some might have been able to find other employment on their own before today.”

The 95 men and 89 women employed at eight of White’s factories – including Lime Street and Newton Road, Rushden – were given a week’s notice on Friday.

The company, in a statement issued to the Press, said: “This reduction in our labour force is necessary because of the continued shoe trade recession.

“With the reduction it is hoped that it will soon be possible to resume a five-day working week. A four-day week has been in operation since the beginning of the year.


“In cases where it is proved necessary to dispense with long service employees (about 34 are affected), John White’s are to make an ex-gratia payment related to their length of service. There will also be additional benefits to those employees in the firm’s pension scheme.”

Mr. Peter Gray Wilson, managing director, said that the firm had been working above its selling capacity for some time. He had hoped there would be an improvement in the New Year so that a full labour force could be retained.

He felt that there was every chance of those dismissed getting their jobs back, although he could see no immediate prospect of this because of a trade recession.

He attributed the sackings to the general decline in demand for the firm’s traditional footwear. “A lot of the recession is due to over-production rather than under consumption,” said Mr. Wilson.

New Jobs

About the closure of their Dale Street factory in Wellingborough, the deputy managing director, Mr. C. L. Metcalfe, said that the seventy employees there would be offered full time jobs in the closing rooms at Rushden.

He stressed that the move was part of the firm’s long term reorganisation plan; it was aiming at more efficient utilisation of space and consolidated self-contained units.

The new rating assessments and the loss of industrial de-rating – meaning that factories had to look at the floor space they were using – was an important factor in arriving at the decision explained Mr. Metcalfe.


A Rushden NUBSO official stated that the Boot and Shoe Union had met representatives from White’s twice for consultations about the 184 workers being paid off.

He could not recall similar dismissals of such a large number of workers in the local footwear industry – even during the depression days.

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