Glasgow & West Scotland

Clinical waste firm HES goes into liquidation

HES facility in Shotts Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Inspectors found a string of environmental breaches at the HES site in Shotts.

Clinical waste firm Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) has gone into liquidation four months after all of its staff were made redundant.

Accountants BDO have been appointed to the Lanarkshire-based company which lost multi-million pound contracts with NHS Scotland and 17 trusts in England.

About 150 jobs were lost at its Shotts HQ last year and staff have been pursuing legal action to recover wages.

Lawyers acting for the workers believe they could be owed more than £1m.

The liquidators are now seeking access to the company's books and records.

HES had managed all of Scotland's clinical waste disposal before it was embroiled in a waste stockpiling scandal.

Following the loss of the contracts, contingency measures had to be put in place across the whole of NHS Scotland.

Company owner Garry Pettigrew had previously refused to put the company into administration and insisted he was not liable for the wages of former staff.

Food banks

David Martyn, of Thompsons Solicitors who have been acting on behalf of some former employees, said the latest move was a "starting point" towards getting the money they are owed.

He told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Normally what happens when a company goes into administration is the employees can get their notice pay, any unpaid wages, holiday pay and things like that, from the government Insolvency Service.

"Of course, when the company doesn't got into administration, this puts the employees in a terrible situation.

"They have now had four or five months where they have not had their last month's wages and the notice periods they are entitled to.

"We have had terrible stories of people having to rely on food banks just to see them through."

Image caption HES owner Garry Pettigrew insisted he was not liable for money owed to staff

Mr Martin added: "We estimate that payments of over £1m are owed to these workers. Obviously that is a huge boost to the workers.

"We call on Mr Pettigrew to allow access to the books and the records, and that will allow these payments to be expedited.

"It will still be a couple of weeks before the applications will be made, but this is certainly the starting point in the workers finally getting the money they are owed."

James Stephen, a Glasgow-based partner at BDO, said HES had gone into liquidation at the request of one of its creditors. The petition was granted at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Thursday and was not opposed.

Mr Stephen said: "BDO have been appointed as liquidators by the court. We are now assessing the company's asset base.

"We will be working with all the relevant government agencies to make sure any health and safety issues at the site are taken into account. We'll be heavily involved in taking guidance from them."

Hazardous waste

A statement from HES said it was "very sad to announce that we believe the company was placed into administration".

The firm said the ongoing medical waste crisis "has been caused by a severe lack of high-temperature incineration capacity in the UK combined with more waste being sent for incineration by the NHS".

The statement added: "The directors would like to thank our true loyal staff, friends, colleagues, suppliers, & loyal customers for 22 years, they know who they are."

The HES staff were made redundant after the company was caught up in a UK-wide waste stockpiling scandal.

Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) inspectors found a string of environmental breaches at its Dundee and Shotts sites.

They said both were failing to comply with enforcement notices over the proper storage of waste.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) confirmed it had been in contact with the liquidators, "to whom environmental obligations under the environmental licences for both sites now fall".

A spokesman said: "All contingency measures will ensure that environmental and human health are appropriately protected and, to date, our inspections have not identified any current risk of pollution from the waste stored on these sites."

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