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Rowen sheds over half its staff as office slump bites

UK's largest structural steelworker Severfield Rowen set to cut 80 jobs at Nottinghamshire subsidiary

THE UK'S largest structural steelwork firm, Severfield Rowen, is preparing to shed 80 jobs after being hit by the slump in London's commercial office market.

The cuts will take place at its subsidiary Rowen Structures, which will lose over half its 150-strong workforce at Suttonin-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

John Severs, Severfield Rowen managing director, said: 'Last year we had 16 projects in London, but the market has suffered badly. We have a framework deal for work on Terminal 5 at Heathrow, and we are doing more infrastructure work following the purchase of Watson Steel but even then we can't completely offset that kind of downturn.

'We are in a better position than most to cope, but we are having to trim back and I wouldn't be surprised if other firms were looking to do the same.'

The firm's main fabrication sites at Dalton, North Yorkshire, and Bolton, Lancashire, will be unaffected by the cuts.

Mr Severs added that Rowen would retain a core engineering skills base in order to expand the business again after a market recovery.

But one shop floor worker told Construction News: 'The number of people that will be left means they will only have the capability to carry out smaller contracts at Nottingham.'

The cuts come as administrator KPMG wound down Black Country structural steelwork firm Dyer yesterday (Wednesday), with the loss of 130 jobs.

The firm, founded in 1935, was forced into administration last month, blaming 'tight margins and adverse economic conditions'.

KPMG administrative receiver Allan Graham said: 'No acceptable offers were made for us to achieve a going concern sale, so regrettably we have no alternative but to close the business.'

Derek Tordoff, director of the British Constructional Steelwork Association, said: 'We are seeing a change in the mix.

The commercial market in London is down, but it accounts for only a quarter of the sector and there is still work elsewhere in the UK. We're seeing growth in the residential multi-storey sector, for example.

'The overall volume of work has changed only marginally, and the industry has contracted marginally to reflect that.'