EMPLOYEES at a Colne Valley textile firm face short-time working after a sudden fall in orders.

Thirty-four staff at Drake Extrusion at Victoria Mills in Golcar have been asked to halve their working hours and take a 50% pay cut.

The company's 133-strong workforce at Drighlington, near Bradford, have also been asked to take the same cut in pay and hours.

And they have been warned that the company will have to axe 15 to 20 jobs if they refuse.

Production director Colin Porteous said the drastic action was needed after a massive rise in the price of oil and plastic needed by the firm to make man-made fibres.

"Our customers have stopped buying the fibres we make," he said. "We have a short-term, acute problem of lack of orders.

"We hope that in four to six weeks time the price of oil and polymers will come down - but there is no certainty of that."

Mr Porteous added: "I don't want to make people redundant, because once they have gone they don't come back."

He said he could not force staff to work short-time.

But he said that if they did not agree the firm would have to cut costs in any event - and would have to make 15 to 20 redundancies across both sites.

"We hope things stabilise and we get some order in," said Mr Porteous. "But it is like a mini-depression at the moment.

"Things were very busy until about two months ago. Now we are caught between the oil companies - who are making vast profits - and customers who do not want to pay more."

Drake Extrusion, which received the Investors in People Award in 2003, makes polypropylene fibres for use in carpet yarn.