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Northern Ireland firms named and shamed for not paying minimum wage: Restaurants, bars and recruitment business among companies

By Rachel Martin and John Mulgrew

A Co Armagh recruitment firm, a Belfast Italian restaurant and a popular seaside bar are just some of the Northern Ireland firms which have failed to pay workers the minimum wage.

A total of 17 Northern Ireland businesses have been named and shamed by the Government.

The largest amount not paid was for £26,418.67, by Portadown firm WH Recruitment Ltd, which failed to pay the amount to 143 workers. Director William Hunniford said issues arose over accommodation for foreign workers. “I hold my hands up, it was our mistake and we made an error — but I don’t know where else people can rent a house for £30 a week,” he said.

“We never underpaid anybody on their salary and our workers will agree they were happy with the accommodation they received.”

Bennetts Seafood Bar & Grill in Warrenpoint, failed to pay £7,300.15 to 25 workers. It was closed in December 2015. The Belfast Telegraph could not get in touch with the owner.

In Strabane, Boran-Mopack Limited, failed to pay £6,779.05 to one worker. A spokesman for the packaging company said the underpayment was caused by a misunderstanding regarding an apprentice, which was subsequently rectified.

The National Minimum Wage ranges from £3.40 per hour for apprentices, to £7.20 an hour, which is called the National Living Wage, for those aged 25 and over. Meanwhile, Shine Hair Company in south Belfast, failed to pay £5,811.95 to one worker. It did respond when contacted for comment.

Fusion Heating Limited in Newtownards failed to pay £4,353.69 to two workers.

The company said it had apologised to both of the employees affected. It said it has “introduced additional safeguards to ensure an error of this type does not reoccur” and now pays workers “at a rate above the UK National Living Wage”.

Rumour Espresso Bar Ltd in Armagh failed to pay £1,779.85 to five workers. The company declined to comment.

Muldoon Transport Systems Limited in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, failed to pay £1,468.25 to seven staff.

A spokesman for the firm said “discrepancies were discovered” which were “unintentional and immediately rectified.”

Causeway Coach Hire, based in Ballymoney in Co Antrim did not pay £1,307.50 to 10 workers. The company declined to comment. Bangor car dealer Sammy Mellon and Sons Limited failed to pay £1,236.00 to one worker.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted the company but it did not respond.

And BC Plant Limited, Hillsborough, Co Down failed to pay £1,180.63 to five workers.

A spokeswoman said the underpayment was due to confusion over the overtime rate for its apprenticeships.

Well-known Belfast Italian restaurant Villa Italia failed to pay £928.41 to one of its workers.

A spokesman said that the problem arose after a member of staff had moved into a different minimum wage age band.

He said the company had installed software so that changes to minimum wage age bands are made automatically.

McHenry’s Central Bar Ltd in Ballycastle, failed to pay £330.24 to one worker.

A spokeswoman for the Central Bar said it was a “genuine mistake” and the money was built up when a worker was underpaid by 4p an hour.

The former owners of the Curran Court Hotel Ltd in Larne failed to pay £282.88 to three workers. The company entered administration last year.

Meanwhile, Custom House Restaurant in Londonderry failed to pay £365.16 to nine workers. McDowell’s Butchers in Carrickfergus failed to pay £359.49 to three workers. The firms did not respond when contacted for comment.

Chris McClenaghan, a director of Creativ3 Merchandise Ltd in Carrickfergus — which failed to pay £268.18 to one worker — said the company was not at fault, and that the employee had not turned up for work.

Fintan McGrady of McGrady Limited in Downpatrick — which failed to pay £113.33 to one worker — said it missed paying her for two or three days in error, but the money was subsequently fully reimbursed.

Debenhams Retail plc — which has five stores in Northern Ireland — failed to pay £134,894.83 to 11,858 workers.

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