A north-east construction workforce is facing redundancy this Christmas after their firm’s vital contract with the local authority was terminated.
Around 20 employees at construction firm Kier Group’s housing maintenance north base in Blackdog say they are days away from losing their jobs after discovering the company’s contract with Aberdeenshire Council will end on January 4.
The council provides the main source of work for the electricians, joiners, builders and plumbers – who carry out maintenance work on all its schools, public buildings and care homes north of Inverurie.
In 2013 Kier was named the preferred partner for the £8million contract that workers claim was due to expire later in 2016.
Last night the council said the “unsettling situation” had been caused by the company deciding to terminate its contract.
However, a Kier spokeswoman said she believed the council would take the employees under its wing and that the transition process had been underway for some time.
One employee – who did not wish to be named – said: “They are making everyone redundant. It is quite a large work force and it is just before Christmas.
“They have Aberdeenshire Council’s contract for the north and south. It is the north side being made redundant. There is 19 or 20 of us. We are supposed to be put into a new contract.
“This is literally all the work we do. We look after all Aberdeenshire Council’s buildings and schools. We are the awarded contractor at the moment.
“We are all very much in the dark about this. It has been meeting after meeting after meeting.”
Another worker added: “We don’t know if the council are going to take us on or not. There is nothing in black and white yet. Most of the guys have been there for two years.”
An Aberdeenshire Council spokeswoman said: “Whilst we sympathise with the staff who have been left in an unsettling situation in the run up to Christmas, this has been created by the decision of Keir Services Ltd to terminate their contract.
“The council has taken legal advice and our position remains clear. We have a duty to get value for money in everything we do and are confident in this decision.”
Company ‘doing all it can to support staff’
Last night a spokeswoman for the Kier Group said the company is doing all it can to support its staff as a decision on their future is sorted out.
She insisted that the firm is “still in discussions with the council” on the matter to reach a “mutually agreeable outcome” between workers and the local authority.
She said the firm believed the employees were to transfer to the employment of the council under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) – or Tupe – regulations as part of the termination of the contract.
The spokeswoman added: “As part of discussions with the council, which began earlier in the year, Kier confirmed our decision to conclude our two repairs and maintenance contracts with effect from January 4, 2016.
“As part of the process Kier began discussions around transfer of services several months ago, and has been fully engaged with the council and all staff involved over that time, to help prepare transition plans.
“We were informed at the beginning of December that contract would be awarded to a new external service provider, though in recent days this option was then discounted by the council, and we believed that employees would transfer back to the council under standard Tupe regulations.
“We aren’t able to comment in any more detail currently.”