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Norwich Connaught workers in compensation bid

PUBLISHED: 08:22 01 February 2011 | UPDATED: 10:33 01 February 2011

Flashback to last September. Connaught workers leave the company's depot on Old Hall Road in Norwich after they were told they had lost their jobs.

Flashback to last September. Connaught workers leave the company's depot on Old Hall Road in Norwich after they were told they had lost their jobs.

©Archant Photographic 2010

More than a hundred Norwich workers who lost their jobs when city council contractor Connaught went into administration are hoping to win compensation after legal action was launched by their union.

More than a hundred Norwich workers who lost their jobs when city council contractor Connaught went into administration are hoping to win compensation after legal action was launched by their union.

Some 300 Norwich workers were made redundant last September when Connaught Partnerships – picked by Norwich City Council to carry out housing repair and maintenance work for the authority – went into administration.

But construction union UCATT (Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians) is pursuing employment tribunal cases for unfair dismissal, failure to transfer and failure to inform and consult on behalf of 125 members.

The legal action has been launched against Connaught for unfair dismissal and failure to consult, but action is also being taken against companies who took on the contracts from the city council after Connaught collapsed.

he union says the action has been launched against those companies because the dismissed Connaught workers were not all transferred across to them.

The workers had been employed by Connaught to undertake repairs and maintenance on Norwich City Council’s housing stock as part of the £17.5m contract which had been signed with City Hall.

They were made redundant after the company plunged into administration after weeks of speculation that the Exeter-based firm was in trouble.

The job losses in Norwich were the highest of any single contract, following Connaught’s collapse, according to the union.

Brian Rye, regional secretary for UCATT Eastern Region, said: “Our members have been treated shamefully and continue to struggle to regain employment, usually on much lower terms and conditions.

“This legal action is absolutely essential as these workers lost their jobs through absolutely no fault of their own.”

Following the announcement that the workers were to be made redundant, many marched on City Hall to protest and there were calls for an independent inquiry into the council’s decision to award the contract to Connaught.

The city council, which has always said it could not have predicted the collapse of the company, said it tried to secure a rescue package for the workers, which would have seen them transfer over to a new company.

But the council said “a thicket” of legal issues surrounded that process, so a deal they hoped would be struck was scuppered because lawyers feared a legal challenge.

Interim contracts for up to 12 months have instead been let, ahead of a full re-let of the contract, which will need to go out to tender.

When the contracts were re-let, some former Connaught workers were taken on by the companies which took on the contracts,including Lovell, Ashford Commercial and Ward & Rooney, but it is understood many are still without work.

The collapse of Connaught left more than 30 East Anglian firms with unsecured debts totalling more than £1m.

Nobody from Lovell or Connaught was available to comment, while Ashford Commercial said they did not want to comment. The union said it was also taking action against Ward & Rooney, which took on Connaught workers on short-term contracts for gas servicing.

But Derren Ward, director of Ward & Rooney said his company had taken legal advice from a barrister, who said Ward & Rooney should not be a part of the action.

Are you a former Connaught worker affected by the claim? Call Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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