28 workers laid off by Lurgan firm

TWENTY EIGHT people have been made redundant by McCrory Scaffolding weeks before Christmas and most have not yet received any redundancy payments.

Most of the workers at the Silverwood firm said they were fearful as Christmas approached.

Eighteen members of staff were made redundant at the end of September and a further ten followed two weeks ago.

Ten former staff members met with the Mail this week to voice concern and confusion about non-payment of redundancy.

One said he had three young children under four. “Santa is coming but he won’t be bringing very much this year,” he said.

“It’s the uncertainty, paying bills, putting petrol in the car. It feels like we’ve been thrown in at the deep end.

“If they had given us redundancy it might have kept us afloat.”

Managing Director Patrick McCrory confirmed his company had made 28 staff redundant both in Northern Ireland and in Peterborough.

He stated categorically that the company, which has been in business for almost 40 years, is not in administration but said the firm is ‘suffering’ and described their current status as ‘legally insolvent’.

Mr McCrory said the company held meetings with the staff who were to be made redundant and held workshops to help them fill in forms.

“It is a case where a company can be legally insolvent and once they do a formal agreement with their unsecured creditors they can still trade,” he said, adding that the firm is doing a deal with their unsecured creditors.

It has come to an agreement to pay back the debt over a period of time.

He said this will ‘give the company breathing space and allow it to continue to trade’.

Mr McCrory said there are four elements to any redundancy:

remaining pay, holiday pay, pay in lieu of notice and any statutory redundancy entitlement. “As a company we have actually paid a laying week and holiday pay and the other two elements will be via the government in terms of the people filling in that redundancy form.”

He said the firm had suffered about £2.2m worth of bad debt in the last five years. “That is money that we worked for and wasn’t paid. So that is the reason why we have had to restructure our debt and restructure our workforce.

“But the bottom line is, if I didn’t owe anybody anything, I would still have to make those redundancies. There is no work in Northern Ireland. It is impossible to sustain a workforce when there is no employment for them

“The directors are still in control of the company. The company is still trading. We are doing a deal with our unsecured creditors in relation to debt. We can’t carry the burden of historic debt and move forward. We can either close our doors or we can move forward and try and secure the employment for the rest of the people.

“We have our bank Danske Group support,” he said. Indeed the firm has recently secured a new job in Birmingham worth £500,000. “We have a decent forward order book particularly in England which is where the market is now,” he said.

“The people were made redundant and as a company we followed the correct steps to get them redundancy money. We could have just made them redundant. We brought them back in on a collective basis and individual basis one by one and explained to them the situation, how to fill in the forms and everything was explained quite clearly to them.

“The directors in this company have taken personal hits too to keep people in employment. People don’t often understand the distinction between company money and private money but the directors have been trying to sustain people. Whilst we completely acknowledge people’s hardship and their disappointment and I share it, the company has done absolutely everything in its power to keep them employed as long as they did and to try and facilitate them.

“The doors are always open if anyone wants to come back in and discuss it. We are more than willing to help them,” he said.

“It is very difficult, people have been with us a long time, we have even had to make management redundant.”

He continued, “We completely acknowledge and accept their disappointment at not receiving their redundancy pay and their pay in lieu of notice, but the company is not in a position to do it. Quite frankly if the company had to pay that redundancy money, everybody else here would have to lose their jobs and hence there is a facility in law and in a situation like this to provide for redundancy payments in a scheme.”

Mr McCrory acknowledged there may have been a situation where some of the staff were ‘in limbo’ following redundancy.

He explained that the firm had lodged their proposal with the creditors last Friday.

He said: “We do a deal to pay the debt over a certain period of time and part of that debt is the redundancy payments, the government will pay the bill for the redundancy at the minute and advance that to the individuals and we repay them in line with the deal like the other creditors over a period of time.

When asked why the proposal had not been submitted until last Friday though some staff were made redundant at the end of September he said it was something that took time. “It was as quick as we could do it,” he said.

“There may be a situation where they are in limbo pending that restructuring being signed off.”