Target staff end sit-in after pay assurances

The men who led the Target Express sit-in ended their protest last night after accepting assurances their outstanding pay and redundancy claims will be processed as quickly as possible by the State.

Last night a spokesman for liquidator Grant Thornton dismissed reports that outstanding pay claims would be dealt with within six weeks. He said they would be dealt with as quickly as possible but it could take four to six months. It could also be up to six months before statutory redundancy payments are made.

But there is a glimmer of hope for the 390 staff who lost their jobs on Monday after Revenue moved in.

Grant Thornton, who were appointed provisional liquidators to College Freight, the holding firm for Target Express, confirmed interest has been expressed by a number of parties for some aspects of the firm. “If a sale is to take place, it will occur before the weekend. The provisional liquidators are actively engaging with all interested parties.”

The 22 workers at the collapsed firm’s Cork depot in Little Island ended their protest after a day of intense negotiations.

The decision to leave the plant came at 5pm following a meeting with Innovation Minister Sean Sherlock and Labour TD Ciarán Lynch.

Mr Sherlock assured them the State will honour their entitlements and various departments will work closely with the provisional liquidators to expedite their claims. “We will do everything we can to ensure that the system works for the workers,” he said.

Just hours earlier, the men had refused to leave until they received a written ministerial guarantee they would be paid what they are owed within two weeks. They outlined their position after a meeting with Grant Thornton, who met staff at depots in Athlone, Carlow, Dublin, Wexford, Tralee, Limerick, and Clones.

Grant Thornton described the company as “hopelessly insolvent” and told the staff they will have to rely on the State for their payments.

Grant Thornton partner Gearóid Costello, who briefed the workers in Cork, said: “Our job is to realise the assets of the company to the benefit of creditors, and that includes the employees.

“Revenue and employees stand together as preferential creditors.”

All Target workers were told they are entitled to redundancy, notice pay, and arrears of holiday pay from the State. They have been asked to complete insolvency forms which should be ready for submission to the Department of Social Protection’s insolvency and redundancy payments section next Tuesday. They also got letters to help them secure emergency payments from community welfare officers.

Cork-based driver Paul Tackle, who has not been paid for almost three weeks and faces eviction today, hopes there will be enough for him and his family.

He said he expects Target Express will claim inability to pay redundancies.

“While this is an unfortunate situation for all the 390 workers involved to be put in, it is encouraging that a plan of action has been put in place to ensure all workers get what they are owed as soon as possible,” he said.

Officials from the Department of Social Protection will meet the Cork workers early next week to advise benefits they may be entitled to in the short term.

Liquidator appointed

* Grant Thornton have been appointed provisional liquidators to Seamus McBrien’s College Freight Ltd, trading as Target Express. They are due in court again on Sept 19, at which point a petition to wind up the company is expected.

* Joint receivers have been appointed to another McBrien company in Ireland, ASDA properties.

* Joint administrators had been appointed to Faranlee Investments Ltd in the North.

* As of last night, no receiver or administrator had been appointed to College Freight Services, another McBrien company in Northern Ireland.

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