Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

They sent a letter saying our jobs were safe

Grey clouds loomed over the small village of Cloughmills yesterday as news spread of the collapse of one of the town's biggest employers.

Haulage firm Reid Transport, which has been based in the village for almost three decades, suddenly announced it was going into administration, making it a bleak Christmas for dozens of employees.

Staff were abruptly told at 5pm on Wednesday that the company had gone bankrupt leaving them very confused.

Many believed their livelihoods were safe after the company sent them a letter dispelling any rumours it was in financial difficulty.

Eamon O'Toole, who has lived in Cloughmills for most of his life and has worked at Reid's for a year, said five weeks ago a letter was posted, signed by managing director Liam Reid stating that rumours that the company was in financial difficulty were "unfounded" , "malicious" and "without foundation".

Mr O'Toole said many of the workers were shocked and angered by yesterday's announcement.

"What really has upset and annoyed everybody was the fact that five weeks ago they sent us a letter saying our jobs were okay, " he explained. "There had been talk a while back that they were losing contracts and that it was in trouble but then we got this letter saying everything was all right.

"This is what has really annoyed a lot of the boys. A lot of them were going to leave back then but didn't because of it."

Mr O'Toole said the loss of haulage firm would be devastating for the local area. Only around 50 of the 200 employees live in the town, but all would have shopped, ate and socialised in the village.

"See that restaurant up the town, every Saturday morning after the shift was over everyone would pile in there for a fry," he said.

"It is things like that which will suffer from this."

Student Mark Kirkpatrick (20) worked part-time for Reid. He has tech fees to pay and a not-so-bright Christmas.

" I couldn't believe it. Five weeks ago they sent us a letter saying the rumours were untrue. Obviously they weren't."

As news spread of the closure yesterday morning, a slow steady flow of bewildered workers and sub-contractors, who face an even more uncertain future, arrived at the Ballycregagh Road depot.

Peter Ballo, who is originally from Slovakia, but now lives in Ballymena, was planning to return home to see his family for Christmas but will now have to spend it on his own.

" I have no job, I have no money, I do not know what I will be able to do," he said. "It was a shock yesterday. Everybody came back from their job and finished shift, and then they said the business was no more and that it had closed. I don't know what I am going to. I will have to look for another job."

Josef Novak, who is also from Slovakia, has worked at Reid for the past six months and has lived in Northern Ireland with his girlfriend for the past three years.

He said a few migrant workers from countries such as Romania, Latvia and Slovenia had relied on Reid for work.

The sober mood surrounding the closure of the haulage firm also filtered through the wider village this morning. Many were worried it would have a severe knock-on effect within the community.

Steven Magill, who has run Magill's butchers on Main Street for the past 17 years, said many of his regular customers were Reid employees who did not live in the village and was worried what sort of affect the closure would have.

"Some families have both partners working there so this will be a double blow to them. I also have a lot of customers who would live out of the town. One woman, who was one of the managers there, came in last night to say goodbye. She lived in Limavady. It is going to affect the community and it is not good news coming up to Christmas."

One resident, Joyce from Ballyveely Road, said this was going to have a devastating affect on the community.

"I think it is terrible. I just heard about it on the radio this morning. It was weird not seeing any lorries on the road. " This will be devastating for them so close to Christmas. The lorries would travel up my road all the time. I just don't think I will get used to not seeing any lorries passing my house any more. It's terrible."

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