Teenager stokes the flames of discontent at hauliers
The teenager at the centre of child labour allegations against failed haulage firm Reid Transport claims the company was aware of his age.
The 16-year-old, who did not want to be named, claims he began working the night shift at the Cloughmills depot when he was just 14 and that his birth date was known to management.
He said that shortly after he began off-loading lorries for Reid, he was asked to sign a contract, just like the rest of the workers.
"I started working for Reid in August 2005, when I was just 14," he explained.
"I was still at school, so I worked the night shift. Initially I started out just doing two nights a week but then there would be weeks where I would be working five nights a week. It was always Sunday to Thursday and maybe the odd Friday night.
"I would generally start at about 7pm-8pm unloading cages. That would have went on to about 12pm most nights but a lot of the time we would not finish until 3 or 4am, maybe even 7am sometimes. I was still going to school at the same time.
"There would be times where I was tired but I still did it. It was good money.
"On average I would have earned about £160 per week.
"We got paid by the delivery so it was always the same. We were known as night helpers. I never earned less than £80 a week and the most would have been well over £200."
On Monday, Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay, said in the Assembly that Employment Minister Sir Reg Empey had "touched on the situation at Reid Transport Ltd."
He added: "Could I also comment on reports that I have heard on the picket line these past four nights, including reports that a number of employees were working more than 70 hours a week and reports that children as young as 14 were working night shifts at the plant?".
Meanwhile, the teenager claimed he was not the only one under 16 to be working at the failed haulage firm. He said there was another guy who he claimed was also underage.
"There is another fella like me. He is about 17 now so he must have been about 15 at the time," he said.
Despite having very little debt, he said he planned to continue with the blockade to show support for his fellow colleagues.
The young lad has been at the picket line since Thursday night and vowed to stay there until all the workers were paid what they were owed.
"I have only been home a couple of times for a change of clothes," he explained.
"Both myself and a few other guys who still live at home decided that we would stay here to show support for the others. We don't have to worry about mortgages or kids or anything so we said we would stay here as much as we could. I don't know what is going to come out of this but I am not going home now, not until we get what we are owed."
The Belfast Telegraph called at the Reid household to seek clarification regarding the allegations but when we arrived a girlfriend of one of the brothers came out of the house and said no-one from the family would be speaking to the media to answer questions.
She also said the two properties with adjoining farm, stables and extensive driveways were private property and kindly asked the Belfast Telegraph to leave.
A PSNI spokesman said police were investigating allegations made against a Cloughmills firm.