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Staff win in ESS deal

PAYE staff of failed agency to receive wages in full but uncertainty remains over contractors' cash

RECRUITMENT firm Centric has bought failed labour agency ESS. Charles Blackbourn, head of the London company, struck the deal with administrator Smith & Williamson last week.

Mr Blackbourn has invested £800,000 and said workers would see the lion's share of their lost wages.

He said: 'The staff working on a PAYE basis will be transferred in accordance with TUPE and receive their arrears in full.

Contractors who have remained with the company will receive the majority of their back pay.'

Mr Blackbourn said the ESS company Advantage Airport Services, which was supplying 200 workers at Heathrow's T5, ran into cashflow problems and brought down the rest of the business because of a cross-company guarantee.

Around 120 workers on PAYE will receive arrears.Contractors will get the majority of their cash and can apply to the administrator as creditors.

Because most of the workers are in composite companies, they will only be entitled to claim minimum wages because most of their money is in dividends and shares to avoid tax.

NG Bailey is understood to have agreed a wages deal for the 12 ESS staff working on its Pier 6 contract at Gatwick.But Amicus official Bernard McAuley is still fighting on behalf of more than 100 workers to recover £400,000 in unpaid wages from industrial engineering firm Pickford Vanguard for work on Corus's new Aldwarke production plant in Rotherham.

Mr McAuley said: 'While the office staff have been TUPE transferred, the administrator was saying the site workers will have to apply to them as unsecured creditors.'

Pickford has taken on around 40 of the workers on PAYE to finish the contract.

Mr McAuley added: 'Pickford said at first they would pay £750 to workers who stayed on after February 6 but then they started saying that, as they had taken them on PAYE, this was just an advance on their wages.The goalposts keep changing.'