THE future of Barrie Knitwear – and its 180-strong staff – remains unclear as parent company Dawson International edged closer towards administration.
Shares in the company were suspended on Wednesday amid ongoing problems with its pensions fund.
News broke last month that Dawson is struggling to bear the burden of more than 3,000 pension schemes and has run up a £50million deficit with negotiations to transfer liability to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) at a stalemate.
At the time of going to press directors were awaiting notification from the pension trustees on whether a last ditch offer could be accepted to stave off the threat of administration.
Barrie managing director and Dawson International Plc chief operations officer Jim Carrie told the Hawick News yesterday: “We’re still talking with the trustees regarding if and when administration will be introduced.”
However, Mr Carrie revealed that there had been interest in the Burnfoot-based company, which remains profitable.
He said: “I think everyone recognises this is a strong business and it has a good future.
“We have had some interest from more than one party which is positive although not unexpected.”
Once a major player in the textiles industry – with names such as Pringle of Scotland and Ballantyne Cashmere – Dawson is now made up of Barrie and a US parent company, Dawson Forte, which will not be affected.
Twenty years ago, it operated with 12,000 staff, and the imbalance between former employees on a pension scheme and current workers, as well as increased life expectancy, has resulted in the unsustainable debt.
Local MP Michael Moore, who has been involved in discussions with management and staff at Dawson, hoped any outcome would safeguard the workforce.
He said: “Whatever the future now holds for the group, it is vital that every necessary step is taken to ensure the continuation of Barrie’s world-class knitwear and to maintain the jobs of hundreds of people in Hawick and elsewhere.”
While MSP John Lamont criticised the authorities.
He said: “They have tried their upmost to renegotiate a fair deal but despite this Pension Protection Fund and Pensions Regulator have chosen to reject it.
“The deal offered was a better one than insolvency would provide and it seems ludicrous that this was rejected when administration is now a real possibility.”