Workers to lose jobs, but donate £30,000

Archie Anderson getting cheque from workers Credit: ITV

Inside the Alcan canteen, opposite the queue for pies and chips, the job adverts are stacked up against each other.

Vacancy: "Field Service Engineer". "Project Engineer". "Manufacturing and Quality Engineer."

But the optimism in the printouts, is not matched by the men inside.

I ask if there are plans for May, when more than 300 do their last shift. A grimace and then the truth: only "a handful" have jobs and the plan, for many, is "the dole".

Gary Saltmarsh, a pot operator, shrugs: "Tomorrow I'm not a pot operator. I'm just an operator." That's what happens when the smelter is switched off.

It is what makes their decision to give away their £30,000 social fund all the more remarkable.

The money came from the sale of an old clubhouse in the 1970s and has sat in a bank ever since.

The modest workers point out that, had they divided it, it would have amounted to £41 each.

But even so, it was a generous offer that has meant a little boy finally has the money to fix his legs.

Archie has cerebral palsy and needed £50,000 to get to America to have the operation. The workers' money means he has reached the target.

After the ceremony, he dived into the grass and scampered about. He was just one beneficiary: the Children's Heart Unit and Great North Air Ambulance also received £10,000.

But Archie was chosen because, as Gary put it, they "had the chance to change a life". The Ashington boy, star of local newspapers and TV, was the natural choice.

He sat on the grass and smiled: "The operation will mean I can ride my bike down the big bank at the end of our road." He is used to the cameras.

But what he doesn't fully know, is that in this fleeting moment before the long redundancy process begins, the men and women of Alcan have been the stars for him.