‘Scrooge’ management axe older staff

PUBLISHED: 12:30 16 December 2010

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Archant

THE management of Cheddar Caves and Gorge has been labelled as a modern-day ‘Scrooge’ after it controversially decided to enforce the official retirement age on its staff.

Union leaders say they are appalled by the move which means all staff aged 65 and over will be axed from their jobs.

Workers at the famous attraction have been sent letters telling them of the new policy and giving them three months’ notice.

The caves and gorge are owned by Lord Bath, and is run by the same estate management as Longleat’s house, grounds and safari park in Wiltshire.

It is thought around half a dozen staff at the Cheddar attraction will be affected by the policy, but a spokesman for the estate would not reveal the exact figure.

In a statement the estate’s management said the decision was a ‘difficult’ one, and cited ‘modernisation’ as the key reason for implementing the policy.

The statement said: “All Longleat employment contracts state that the normal retirement age applicable is 65 years.

“Historically this clause has not been applied allowing some staff to continue into their 80s.

“The estate is extremely grateful for the valuable service provided by those employees but as we embark on a sustained multi-million pound investment and modernisation programme it is inevitable that we require people with new diverse skills and experience from a variety of backgrounds.”

The move has been widely criticised and comes before a new law is introduced next year which will ban age discrimination at work.

Gail Cartmail, of public services union Unite, said: “Are the management of the Longleat Estate seriously suggesting that once people reach the age of 65 that they can’t make a strong contribution to what the management describe as ‘a sustained multi million pound investment and modernisation programme’?

“This is clearly nonsense and based on outdated prejudice, especially as people are fitter and living much longer.

“The Longleat Estate is behaving like Scrooge and giving a Christmas slap in the face to loyal staff who have given years of dedicated service.”

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