Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Collapsed haulier's workers 'betrayed'

Calls were made yesterday for an immediate investigation to be launched into failed haulage firm Reid Transport after it was claimed the company was £3.3m in debt.

According to David Pattison, a senior analyst with Plimsoll publishing in England, data filed with Companies House in Belfast in 2005 showed the firm was £2.9m in short-term debt and £400,000 in long-term debt.

The Transport and General Workers' Union called for an immediate investigation.

On Wednesday the company suddenly announced it had gone into administration, making around 200 employees redundant.

Sean Smyth from T&G, who met with workers and Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey in Belfast on Friday, said the company had acted " disgracefully" and that many workers felt "betrayed".

Five weeks ago the directors issued a letter to staff saying their jobs were safe and that rumours the company was in trouble were "malicious" and "unfounded".

But revelations the company had been in serious debt for a number of years and that there was no money to pay out redundancies prompted around 50 employees to mount a blockade on Thursday.

Workers last night met administrators following the stand-off outside the haulage firm and they called off their protest.

It is understood all the workers will receive a statutory minimum redundancy payment of one week's pay per each year of service, plus back pay and holiday, but the union claimed workers were not told the package was tax-payer funded.

Yesterday the union was able to secure 10 permanent positions and was in the process of securing between 20-30 fixed-term contracts for the workers with Wincanton.

It hoped to secure 50 permanent posts for those at Reid.

Mr Smyth also said politicians needed to ensure better protection for workers, especially after the collapse of a number of businesses.

Earlier this month Limavady-based manufacturing company Seagate announced it was closing making 900 people unemployed.

Two weeks later Huco Lightronic NI Ltd in Limavady also announced it was to cease operations with the loss of a further 70 jobs.

"Our MLAs need to ensure Northern Ireland workers have proper protection," Mr Smyth said.

Economy Minister Nigel Dodds and Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey have said help would be given to the men who were made redundant.

A meeting between the Employment and Learning department and Reid is expected on Monday.

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