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Jobs return to Swindon - but mostly for temps

Dave Harvey | 07:30 UK time, Thursday, 9 July 2009

Stella Weekes is not a lady to mess around. She started her recruitment agency in the 1991 recession, so she knows a bit about doom and gloom.

Last year she did so well she took all 38 of the Mainline staff to Vegas. To say "thanks"!

Stella Weekes

This year, she had to let half of them go. It hurt. But when Woolies closed their distribution depot, big electronics companies laid people off, and Honda shut down for four months, the fizz had gone out of recruitment.

Behind the official unemployment stats, and the formal redundancies that people like me tell you about on the news, are the temps.

Agency staff are the first to go. Sometimes it hardly merits a phone call, the phone simply stops ringing. They can be sacked overnight if need be. Great for companies trying to cut costs in a hurry, awful for guys with kids to feed.

Tony was a temp at BMW, pressing the panels for the fancy Mini they make in Oxford. The company sacked all the agency staff on Christmas Eve.

So Tony went to see Stella, and her Mainline crew. For months, they had nothing. Then last week - tada! A job. Another forklift job, at another car supplier. This lot, Howard Tenans, run the warehousing for Honda. A million exhausts come in from Oxford, then go out one at a time exactly when the guys on the Honda line want them.

Howard Tenans laid off half their staff when Honda shut down. No surprise perhaps, but no nicer for that. Now they're hiring again, but here's the thing. They aren't confident enough to put everyone on the books - 11 permanent, 11 temps. "We're still bubbling along the bottom", their sales director, Ben Morris, told me.

So yes, jobs are creeping back to Swindon. But they're awfully vulnerable. If this is a green shoot, it's a tiny delicate slip of a thing. And you hope for Tony's sake there are no sharp economic frosts ahead.

Because we all know why people hire temps. Easy come and, sadly, easy go.

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