By Neil McKnight

THE clamour for work in the North Antrim area was brought into sharp focus last week when hundreds applied for a handful of jobs at one of Ballymoney’s leading supermarkets.

When Tesco announced they were recruiting for seasonal positions for the first time in a number of years, the news sparked a huge response from the unemployed with an unprecedented number turning up at the store last Monday night seeking an application form.

The interest was so great that a large queue of job seekers, many of whom had travelled from as far as Portrush and Ballycastle, snaked its way through the store, stretching from the entrance to the far right wall between the check-outs and glass frontage, and zig-zagged its way beyond the alcohol section.

It is understood that Tesco was to hand out around 200 applications for some 25 to 30 seasonal jobs.

In previous years an increase in check-out staff, bag-packers, customer service, stock replenishment and pickers helped meet the demands of the busy run-up to Christmas.

The roles were targeted at working parents, students and mature workers, aged 50 and above.

A range of flexible hours were on offer but this year’s applicants were required to be available for work on the traditional Christmas and New Year holidays of December 26 and 27 and January 1.

However, the recruitment operation didn’t go according to plan with some confusion in times when people could come for an application form.

A sign had been up in the supermarket for sometime and was also made known on-line which invited potential candidates to come to the store to collect an application form between 7pm and 8.30pm last Monday.

However, it is understood that some people may have seen an earlier sign stating 7.30 a.m. to 8.30 a.m. on the Monday, which was subsequently changed well before the date of form distribution.

It is understood that around 40 people arrived at Tesco last Monday morning hoping to collect an application form only to be turned away by staff and told they could not have a form as it would only be given out later that evening. It is not known if any of the potential new recruits returned later that day.

When asked by the Times to clarify the figures and how the timing issue came about, a Tesco spokeswoman would not comment.

Local councillor and businessman, Bill Kennedy, said that whatever the circumstances of the times for getting an application form, there was no doubt that scores of people were in desperate need of a job and with Tesco having a reputation as a good employer, interest would have been even greater.