Staff at haulage firm 'don't want receiver'

Staff at haulage firm 'don't want receiver'
Target Express staff in Cork. Pic: Dan Linehan.

Sacked haulage firm workers are staging a sit-in after one of the country’s largest companies ceased trading with the loss of nearly 400 jobs.

Target Express claimed it was forced to close when the Revenue Commissioners refused to strike a deal on money owed.

Former worker Tom Cullen said more than 15 staff are stopping freight leaving the firm’s depot in Little Island, Cork.

He said employees – who are owed two weeks pay – are angry at the lack of information from the company and Revenue, and raised concerns over claims managing director Seamus McBrien contacted three Cabinet members who did not intervene.

“We were told this morning from the HR department a receiver will be coming down to sort out our P45,” said Mr Cullen.

“We don’t want a receiver in here.”

Mr McBrien claimed his company accounts were frozen on Thursday over a debt of less than half a million euro.

A Revenue Commissioners spokeswoman said it cannot comment on individual cases.

Mr McBrien said he had contacted Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Transport Minister Leo Varadkar to make representations, but claimed they would not get involved.

Mr Varadkar said his office did get in touch with the Revenue Commissioners, but was unable to pass on the concerns in the absence of the company waiving confidentiality, which it has not done.

“All taxpayers have an obligation to pay their taxes,” he said.

“I remain hopeful that some or all of the jobs can be rescued.”

Mr Bruton’s office said the firm was told as it was not an Enterprise Ireland or IDA company the most appropriate step for it was to contact a named person in Revenue or the Finance Department.

Elsewhere the Department of Finance said it referred Target Express back to the Revenue Commissioners as is protocol because, as an independent body, it has responsibility for collecting revenue.

Target Express, which was the main sponsor of Tyrone GAA, had depots across the north and south of Ireland and had forecast a profit of €1.6m this year.

It won distributing company of the year last November and held several large contracts, including A Wear clothes chain and Smyths toys store.

The haulage boss maintained his firm paid €1m to tax chiefs in the last six to eight weeks and another €214,000 on Monday.

“They said we needed to pay them a further €80,000 and they needed it by Wednesday,” said Mr McBrien.

“We said we’d pay them by Friday but they put an attachment on our account last Thursday… the wages couldn’t be dealt with.

“I wasn’t prepared to ask people to work for me if I couldn’t guarantee them payment.”

Mr McBrien claimed a further offer of €175,000 cash and instalments of €45,000 a week for the next four weeks was rejected yesterday.

The Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) warned another six firms employing thousands of people will be gone by Christmas unless Government stems the tide of ever increasing fuel prices and use of laundered diesel in the sector.

“The industry is in dire straits,” said Eoin Gavin, President of the IRHA.

“The price of diesel is rapidly increasing and the Government are very slow to react and prevent further closures of transport companies and the loss of associated jobs.”

He called on the Government to introduce a rebate scheme for tax compliant, licensed operators identical to measures being used by Ireland’s international fleet in other European countries, like Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg.

“Government intervention is urgently required in order to continue to facilitate our export led economic recovery,” Mr Gavin added.

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