Scotland

HES staff appeal to employer for lost wages

Garry Pettigrew
Image caption Garry Pettigrew said the company was trying to survive

Staff made redundant from clinical waste firm Healthcare Environmental Services have appealed to their former employer to "do the decent thing" and pay their lost wages.

About 350 HES employees have asked Garry Pettigrew and his wife Alison to pay their December salaries.

It comes after the Insolvency Service rejected many workers' claims for wages and holiday pay they were owed.

Staff are still waiting for statutory redundancy pay.

All 400 staff at HES, including 150 workers at its Shotts headquarters, were given redundancy notices on 27 December.

The staff group, who call themselves Help Us Healthcare, have now joined together to made a direct appeal to the Pettigrews.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption All 400 employees of HES, including 150 workers at its Shotts HQ, were made redundant

The former employees said: "We are collectively writing to appeal to you to take the morally right and legal action and pay us for the work we did on behalf of your business.

"Many of us have had to visit foodbanks over the festive period and for many Christmas was cancelled.

"We understand that you are continuing your fight with the UK and Scottish governments and we wish you well, but there are 350 people throughout the UK with families and responsibilities who have not been paid since 28 November."

The staff have also asked the company's bank, HSBC, to clarify who took the decision not to release the cash to pay staff their December wages.

But a spokesman for HSBC said: "We are sorry for what HES employees have experienced and sympathise with this difficult situation.

"However, we are unable to comment on the specific financial affairs of the company at this stage due to client confidentiality."

Local SNP MSP Alex Neil and MP Neil Grey are calling on HSBC to release £300,000, which they say would cover the wages owed to staff.

Mr Neil said: "Paying wages, overtime and other payments due to workers should be the overarching priority - and there's a moral responsibility upon HSBC not to hold on to these funds for themselves.  

"Both Scottish and UK governments should apply pressure at the highest level, urging the bank to do the right thing and pay this money out now.

"Those companies appointed to take over HES's contracts for the NHS must also be required to recruit HES workers under the Tupe scheme."

Legal action

The UK government's Insolvency Service announced last week that employees could apply for statutory redundancy money despite the firm not yet declaring insolvency.

After applying online for redundancy pay, plus owed wages and holiday pay, staff were told on Tuesday that they did not qualify for anything other than redundancy because the firm was not insolvent.

It then gave guidance on the steps required to take legal action to have a company declared insolvent.

Image caption The email gave the same response to claims for pay arrears, holiday pay and pay for notice period

Redundancy payments are yet to be approved.

A representative from the Insolvency Service told the BBC it was engaging with the company in order to verify the redundancy claims being made.

In guidance published on Friday, the Insolvency Service said it could pay a maximum of £508 a week to anyone who had worked for the company for at least two continuous years under a contract of employment.

'Still fighting'

HES lost its contracts with NHS Scotland and 17 NHS trusts in England last year after it was found to be stockpiling clinical waste.

Mr Pettigrew, the company's managing director, blamed the UK government for HES going out of business.

He has not yet responded to the statement from the former workers.

Last week he told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme he was still hopeful of finding a buyer to secure the company's future, and denied claims he had let staff down.

He added: "I owe it to everyone to make sure this business survives and believe it or not I'm still fighting for the workers.

"I'm still fighting for this business and I will do that to the very end until there's no breath left in me."

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