HES: Clinical waste firm staff made redundant

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Media captionOne worker who came out of the meeting said staff were crying after being told they were being made redundant

Hundreds of workers at a troubled clinical waste firm in North Lanarkshire have been made redundant.

Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) told staff they were being made redundant with “immediate effect”.

In a letter given to employees, managing director Garry Pettigrew said the firm had ceased trading due to circumstances “outwith our control”.

About 150 people are employed at the firm’s base in Shotts, and almost 400 at depots throughout the UK.

Employees had earlier been sent text messages warning them they might not be paid this week, with HES claiming its bank had refused to release funds.

They were then called to meetings on Thursday morning, where they were handed redundancy notices.

The letter said: “I write to you to inform you that your position in the company will be made redundant with immediate effect.

“I apologise that there have been no previous consultations on this matter, however there are unforeseen circumstances that have proven to be outwith our control.”

It said the company had been “exploring all avenues, both politically and commercially, through enterprise schemes and sales of parts and the whole of the business to try to secure the future of the employees and the company.”

But it added: “We have been given no assistance at any time, from the politicians or enterprise bodies in England or Scotland, we have been unable to resolve matters, and accordingly the company will cease trading on December 27, 2018.”

The company had responsibility for disposing of clinical waste from every hospital, GP’s surgery, dental practice and pharmacy in Scotland.

But it lost 17 contracts with NHS trusts in England earlier this year as a criminal inquiry was launched into a build up of waste at some of its depots.

Image caption

Redundancy notices were handed to staff during meetings on Thursday morning

HES has claimed its reputation was destroyed by the UK government, and said a shortage of incinerators rather than its actions was to blame for the problems.

Earlier this month the firm was also informed it would lose its NHS Scotland contract in April of next year, and subsequently said its banking facilities had been cut off.

Speaking as he left the Shotts base, worker Gary Hawthorn said: “We knew it was coming, the writing has been on the wall for the past four months and they are still in denial saying it is not their fault, it is everybody else’s.

“Gutted really, a lot of time and effort, a lot of overtime, expecting wages to arrive and they don’t arrive, that puts our families in a position now.”

Ahead of the meeting a HES staff member had told BBC Scotland the HES plant in Shotts was “full of pallets of waste”, some of which had been there for more than three weeks, and added: “There are containers positioned outside the gates so that no one can get in.”

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An employee told the BBC waste was piling up at the depot

On 12 December National Services Scotland (NSS) said it had taken responsibility for waste from every hospital, GP surgery, dental practice and pharmacy to cope with a potential backlog of clinical waste after HES withdrew its service.

Scottish government Business Minister Jamie Hepburn said: “We have contacted the company previously on a number of occasions, most recently yesterday, when we offered to come on site this morning to provide support to employees through our initiative for responding to redundancy situations, Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE).

“We did not receive a response but have provided the company with information on PACE support. After previously not engaging with this offer of support we hope that the company will now do so to assist their employees.”

A spokeswoman for NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) said contingency measures are in place to collect waste previously collected by HES.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Health and Social Care in England said HES had “made a number of unfounded allegations against the government which are completely untrue”.

The BBC has approached HES for a comment.

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