Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster in jobs pledge to laid-off KPL staff
Companies which take over the unfinished work of a Northern Ireland firm that collapsed with the loss of more than 200 jobs have been offered Government assistance to hire its former staff and subcontractors.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster told the Assembly there were a number of contracts that utilities firm KPL was working on when it went into administration last Friday.
They included contract work for Roads Service, BT and Northern Ireland Electricity.
Mrs Foster said the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment would help firms which take over the work to hire former KPL Contracts employees.
"If companies are looking for workers, they will find them with skills in abundance in relation to KPL. We will assist companies that want to come forward to us in looking for help in relation to job fund applications," she said.
The Dungiven-based utilities contractor blamed "acute cashflow pressure" for the decision to call in PwC as administrators last week.
The firm had 202 direct employees but also worked with 150 subcontractors in water, electricity, telecoms and public lighting.
The minister said help for KPL's workers will be provided through a redundancy clinic at the Elk Inn in Toomebridge on February 26.
"We will do all that we can to support them, of course, and assist them in finding a job or starting their own business, and we will do that through Invest NI," she said.
Mrs Foster was asked whether KPL's downfall was a result of its involvement in property investment rather than in its core business of carrying out maintenance work for utility companies.
"I cannot confirm that that is the case, but I know that KPL had a good contract base, therefore one can only conjecture from that," she said.
Sinn Fein MLA Cathal Ó hOisín said he was "led to believe that a rescue package was being worked on", and called on the minister to back any such package.
KPL was led by Dungiven man Kevin Lynch, who set up the company nearly 20 years ago when he was just 28.
It directly employed 200 people but also worked with over 150 subcontractors, including digger drivers, some fully reliant on KPL for work.
Mr Lynch is well-respected in the area and is reported to have received a standing ovation from staff after breaking down as he told staff of the firm's woes.