One union representative said the massive job losses at KPL Contracts Limited have left its staff stunned, while public services and subcontractors alike try to come to terms with the aftermath.
The effects of the firm’s implosion continued to ripple out yesterday, with the GMB union describing the members which it represents in the Co Londonderry company as “shellshocked”.
On Friday it was announced the Dungiven-based KPL had been placed in the hands of administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), then the following day it was revealed that efforts to keep the business going had failed – and all 202 staff had been made redundant.
“It has come as a complete shock to the workforce,” said Michael Mulholland of the GMB, which had about 20 members at the firm.
“They’re shell-shocked at the moment, of course. It’s just after Christmas, two months into the year, and people who thought possibly they had job security now have to wonder where they’re going to get an income.”
He said employees should be able to receive statutory redundancy pay, amounting to a maximum of a week-and-a-half’s pay for each year of service, up to 20 years.
But yesterday SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said that the concerns are now moving beyond just the direct employees to the wider economy beyond.
For example, he said he knew of one small firm, with employees numbering only in single-figures, which was owed about £22,000 for work that had been carried out.
Whilst banks often get “first call”, he said, “the likes of subcontractors can be unfortunately fairly well down the list”.
Francie McNicholl, 60, owns a shop and a petrol station near to KPL’s offices in Dungiven, and thinks he will probably lose out to a degree.
But he added: “Local people around here would feel there’s quite a lot of subcontractors who’ve really not done anything wrong, gone out, done the work, and they’re entitled to be paid for it.”
He said he knows a number of such people, one of whom was owed a six-figure sum, adding there had even been talk of a picket this week by those affected.
As for the effect on public services, yesterday the Department for Regional Development (DRD) confirmed that the company held a number of its street lighting contracts.
It said that last week it had become clear KPL was unable to continue these, adding: “The department is currently putting arrangements in place to enable street lighting services to be maintained in the areas that were covered by these contracts.”
Northern Ireland Electricity, for which KPL had also done work, said simply: “NIE has a contingency in place and the announcement will not affect day-to-day working.”
Following a meeting he had yesterday with the DRD minister Danny Kennedy, Patsy McGlone indicated that subcontractors who previously worked on projects associated with KPL should be kept in mind when it comes to picking up the same jobs under new contracts.