Sacked workers at a print company in Somerset are to mount a legal challenge to their redundancies.

The 287 employees at Butler and Tanner Printers Ltd in Frome were sacked by post leaving them owed nearly £400,000 in wages and pensions contributions.

Ann Field, of union Unite, said it was proposing to take court action to try to secure their members' money.

On Saturday chairman Mike Dolan blamed the threat of strike action for the parent company's withdrawal of finance.

Gates bolted

Ms Field said a shop stewards' meeting on Saturday decided to challenge what had been done and said it would be pursuing every avenue possible to get appropriate recompense.

"People are absolutely outraged and in a state of shock.

"They arrived for work only to find the gates bolted with security guards standing by.

"There will certainly be a legal challenge, I can tell you that."

The union's plans are expected to be ratified on Tuesday at a members' meeting at Frome Football club.

Mr Dolan said the threat of strike action had resulted in the company's withdrawal of financial support for the Somerset-based firm.

He said: "We printed Nigella Express, the Christmas best-seller and the big ones by Delia Smith.

"It is terribly sad because we are the last remaining colour book printer of any size.

"These popular names will now be printed abroad in countries like Italy, Germany and France."

Unite said an average salary payment of £1,200 was due to each employee this month, and a total of £45,000 in pensions contributions needed to be refunded to the workforce as a whole.

Senior representative Stuart North said: "We have accepted pay cuts and all the conditions.

"The only issue in dispute was that Mike Dolan wanted us to sign a document giving him the right to sue individual employees.

"I don't now why he closed it. He might have thought that it was no longer commercially viable or it might have something to do with the value of the land the premises is built on. They are building houses all around it."

Mr Dolan said parent company Media and Print Investments plc (MPI) withdrew support for the business, which has annual sales of £35m, after unions announced strike plans.

BBC News