Almost 150 jobs have been lost at a Co Antrim painting contractors owed money by failed building firm Patton.
All 147 staff were made redundant at Joseph Hughes Painting Contractors (JHPC) and sister company JH Industrial Cleaning Services after both were put into administration.
The Dunloy-based business, which was founded in 1977, reached a plan with creditors at the start of the year for the repayment of its debts — but, according to administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers, the fall of Patton left its position “untenable”.
The firm worked on high-profile contracts such as the painting and decorating of the Dorchester Hotel in London and St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast.
Removal vans were already clearing out JHPC offices in Dunloy and on Boucher Road in Belfast a few hours after the announcement was made yesterday
It is understood JHPC was owed a “substantial sum” by Patton, one of the UK’s biggest building contractors which collapsed last month due to cashflow difficulties.
The announcement follows panic after Patton’s collapse that dozens of smaller sub-contractors who were owed money would be in crisis as a result. As many as 70 small and medium firms employing a total of 2,000 people were said to be owed around £15m.
Patton employed 320 people, around 240 of whom have been made redundant.
A Polish man whose wife worked for Joseph Hughes for four years as a cleaner, said staff were left stunned.
The man, who didn’t want to be named, said: “We got no warning at all.”
He said they had a two-year-old daughter and were now in dire straits financially.
“I don’t know what she’ll do for work now, we don’t have a plan at all. My wife worked part-time, but recently the work was being cut back a lot.
The directors of JHPC — founder Joseph Hughes and Susan Hughes — appointed the administrators themselves.
Joint administrator Stephen Cave of PwC said: “We regret that we have advised the workforce that all 147 staff will be made redundant, with immediate effect.”
Like Patton, the business was working on contracts in England.
DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said: “This is truly devastating news for everyone connected with the Joseph Hughes Group and again comes at a terrible time with Christmas just around the corner.
“After the disaster of Patton’s in the last few weeks, the news comes as a huge double blow for the people and businesses of North Antrim.”
Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay said the firm had been “at the heart of Dunloy”.
He said: “It had a reputation as a good employer and this news will have a huge effect on the local economy.”
He urged the Department of Finance and Personnel to finalise a new system to ensure sub-contractors did not fall victim when larger contractors went out of business.
Invest NI said it was “regrettable” that the administrator had made the redundancies and said it was running clinics to advise those affected.
Joseph Hughes Painting Contractors is the first official victim of the collapse of Ballymena-based Patton, one of the UK’s biggest building contractors. JHPC’s latest accounts showed turnover fell by one third from £9m to £6m but the firm was still in the black, with a £17,145 profit. But that was down from £200k a year earlier. It had £1.1m in debts. JHPC itself was owed £3m by trade debtors and other companies in the group. The combination of its own debts and the non-payment of debts it was owed by other firms has led to its administration.