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Staff left jobless as firm goes into administration
9:00am Tuesday 2nd October 2012 in News
A RECYCLING firm set up to reduce youth unemployment in Swindon announced yesterday that it is to close, with 65 apprentices left on the jobless list.
Workers at Northwood Environmental were told in a meeting that the company was being put into liquidation and they were being made redundant on the spot.
The enterprise, set up for young people out of work, training or education, failed to pay staff on Friday with some having gone two months without wages.
But no announcement was made until 9am yesterday with workers – some still wearing high-visibility jackets – told to return today to collect redundancy letters.
Nichola Pearce, 44, whose son and daughter worked at the company, said: “I am absolutely disgusted, not just at the fact they have not been paid, but at the way they have been treated. My daughter and a lot of the other kids continued to turn up and work for nothing, but where was the reward? “The work was dangerous and my daughter came home with injuries to her hands, but she kept on. They are all absolutely shattered. For many of them this was their first experience of work and some of them think everywhere is like this. Now what do they do?”
Mrs Pearce’s daughter Britainy Clark, 17, had been earning £3.33 an hour and working towards an NVQ in manufacturing before yesterday’s announcement.
Miss Clark said: “They basically said we are all being redundant and we have to come back to get a letter. Because we were all told at once everyone will be looking for work at the same time. I’m 17 and I can’t sign on so I’m just going to have to look for something else.”
Managers at the company, in the Hawksworth Industrial Estate, have also not been paid.
The firm’s MD, James Jennings, has blamed a customer of Northwood for triggering its downfall by defaulting on payments.
The company has been named by other sources as Skills Finder, but the firm told the office of Justin Tomlinson MP yesterday that it was run on a not-for-profit basis and had provided some training covered by external sources which would not have left it owing money.
Mr Tomlinson said: “I’m devastated to hear this news about the 65 trainees and it’s frankly staggering that a little over a month ago the company was looking to recruit an extra 20 people. “Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it enters administration. It raises very serious questions about what on earth was going on with their finances. We have been chasing hard for answers and clearly the whole situation is unacceptable.”
Northwood originally employed more than 80 people, with 97 per cent of its workforce being under the age of 25. However some have left the company in recent months.
Mr Jennings said: “We still don’t have a clear understanding of what’s happened from our angle either.
“We were told by one of our customers in writing that there would be sufficient money transferred on Friday to allow us to run payroll.
“This is as part of a much bigger outstanding debt and for whatever reason it wasn’t transferred. We tried to contact them solidly all day on Friday and were unable to get through to anybody at that customer’s office.”
Mr Jennings said he had been working over the weekend to find a solution to the problem before making the workforce redundant yesterday morning .
“The act of doing that has allowed them to go to Jobcentre Plus to bring some money in and our insolvency will be confirmed in the next couple of days,” he said.
“This will allow outstanding wages and other creditors to be paid off very quickly. Hopefully our actions will reduce the impact on our staff and our families.”
Mr Jennings added: “I’m going to do anything I can do over the next 24 or 48 hours to address this issue because obviously if we can bring the money in we’ll get everyone paid as soon as we can.”
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