Haulage workers continue sit-in

 

Sacked haulage workers at the tax debt-ridden company Target Express have vowed to continue a sit-in at a Cork depot until they get unpaid wages.

Seamus McBrien, the chief executive, claimed he was forced to cease trading after Revenue Commissioners froze its accounts and refused to strike a deal on money owed.

It is understood he is planning to issue further details on the state of the business today.

But employees up and down the country have reacted angrily amid claims they heard about the closure on news bulletins and have only had one contact with management - to tell them to leave premises.

David O’Gorman, one of up to 18 workers who occupied the Cork depot, said they have had no contact bar one email and a phone call from the company.

“We’re staying here until we get paid,” he said. “We were contacted by the regional manager. All he had to say was ‘Leave. There’s no money. It’s pointless staying there’.

“No-one has told us anything. We’re like everyone else, waiting for the update, we have a TV here so we’ll probably find out on the news.”

Meanwhile, at the headquarters depot in Mulhuddart, Co Dublin a group of employees and sub-contractors blocked the main entrance this monring.

Brendan Sweetman, a driver with the company, said he was facing eviction from his rented Tyrellstown home as a result of losing his job. “I’m in serious trouble. I’m going to end up homeless,” he said. He was last paid on the weekend of August 17th and his landlord has threatened not to renew his lease because he has been late with rent on a number of occasions.

Later, the protesting workers at the Mulhuddart plant held talks with company management. The discussions were arranged after gardaí informed them they did not have the right to obstruct the facility entrance.

The depot blockade was called off after lunchtime.

Workers claimed they were told by an area manager for Target Express that €154,000 had been set aside in a company bank account to cover wages but that account has also been frozen by the Revenue.

Sit-ins are also taking place in Galway. Some employees are owed two weeks wages and none in Cork have been given their P45s meaning they cannot apply for social welfare.

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan today appointed Michael McAteer and Stephen Tennant as provisional liquidators to Target Express. They will meet staff tomorrow to ensure their terms and conditions of employment with regard to minimum notice period, documentation and redundancy are dealt with in line with statutory guidelines.

A further hearing date of 19th September has been set by Judge Hogan upon which the provisional appointment of the liquidators will be confirmed and a report on progress will be presented to the court.

Mr McBrien claims his company accounts were frozen on Thursday over a debt of less than €500,000.

Revenue has refused to discuss the Target Express tax liabilities specifically. But it defended its action, saying that cases are only referred for enforcement where a taxpayer or business fails to pay tax that is due.

Target Express, the main sponsor of Tyrone GAA, had depots across the north and south of Ireland and forecast a profit of €1.6 million this year. It was named distributing company of the year last November and held several large contracts, including with the A Wear clothes chain and Smyths toy store.

Mr McBrien maintains that his firm paid €1 million to Revenue in the last six to eight weeks and another €214,000 on Monday.

He claimed that another €80,000 was ordered by today and that his account was frozen on Thursday, despite the money being promised by Friday.

He said he has contacted the offices of Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar to make representations but claimed they would not get involved.

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

PA

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