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Firm is like family for loyal workers

PUBLISHED: 12:16 05 December 2008 | UPDATED: 12:29 03 July 2010

IN THE cut-throat pace of today's world it is not just highly-paid football pros who change employers as often as their luxury sports cars.

Loyalty and long-service are words often associated with an altogether gentler era, which makes it all the more remarkable that one Norfolk firm has just celebrated nearly 500 years of continuous service by 15 members of staff.

IN THE cut-throat pace of today's world it is not just highly-paid football pros who change employers as often as their luxury sports cars.

Loyalty and long-service are words often associated with an altogether gentler era, which makes it all the more remarkable that one Norfolk firm has just celebrated nearly 500 years of continuous service by 15 members of staff.

As you might expect in a company which staff are more than happy to describe as “like an extended family”, Great Yarmouth fertilizer manufacturer The Bunn Group toasted the landmark with a special dinner at the town's Imperial Hotel.

Naturally leading from the front are the directors with John Tooley and Neville Hitcham serving for 60 years and Bernard Thorpe - still attending board meetings well into his 80s - clocking up 69 years of continuous employment.

Chairman Michael Fuller, 69, a relative junior having joined straight from university 46 years ago, believes it is the philosophy of the directors that inspires such loyalty.

He said: “There are no hangers on at all. The directors are very actively concerned with the business so we know what's going on. We are approachable and have a personal relationship with members of staff.”

He pointed out that loyalty at The Bunn Group even spanned the generations - in his case, his father Stanley joined in the 1920s, clocking up 60 years, and his son John was following in his footsteps as a fellow director.

The Tooleys also boasted a similar proud record with sons Matthew and Ian following in the footsteps of father John.

At the dinner, eight members of staff were recognised for service between 25 and 27 years while four were honoured on their retirement, senior driver Peter McKinna after 39 years and operations manager Robin Shepard after 31 years.

Plant foreman Stephen Patterson, 44, who has served 27 years, said he joined three days after leaving school and had never considered leaving.

“They treat us well and we are like a big family and enjoy coming into work,” he said.

He said his father and grandfather and two uncles had all worked for the company as well.

Chairman's PA Caron Bunnewell, 42, who has reached 25 years service, said she liked the fact it was an “old-fashioned company with traditional values”.

Group accountant Keith Spanton said the acid test was that he still liked coming into work each day after 27 years.

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