A construction firm blamed for cashflow problems at Havelock has denied they are responsible for staff not being paid.
Workers at Havelock have been told that a construction firm who employed Havelock to work on a hotel in Aberdeen, have failed to pay the troubled Kirkcaldy shopfitter.
Union and political figures have pointed the finger at the Aberdeen contract as being one of the main reasons behind the Havelock staff not being paid, with Kirkcaldy MP Lesley Laird saying it was “disappointing” that Robertson Construction did not make a early payment to help Havelock staff.
However, Robertson has hit back with a strongly-worded denial.
A spokesperson for Robertson, said: “We are saddened to hear that Havelock International Ltd is again facing financial difficulties.
“Over the last 12 months Robertson has been supportive to both Havelock and Rcapital, the current owners.
We strongly refute the allegation that Robertson is in anyway responsible for the demise of Havelock InternationalRobertson Construction
“At the initial Havelock administration in July 2018, Robertson novated contracts to the new owners and has been making early payments and direct payments for materials and products off-site for their use which reduced pressure on them due to their inability to secure credit terms.
“Robertson has been paying Havelock International on time and in line with our contractual agreement.
“The claim that we are not paying for works undertaken is incorrect, and we are currently conducting assessments for the next payment. As is standard in construction contracts there is an agreement on the works undertaken and the payment structure around this.
“We cannot be held to ransom by demands for monies which have not been verified and agreed.
“We do not normally comment on rumour or allegations, but we strongly refute the allegation that Robertson is in anyway responsible for the demise of Havelock International.”
Staff were sent home yesterday afternoon and told to come back at 12noon today, where they were briefed before leaving.
Speaking after today’s meeting, Gavin Kerr, one of around 250 staff who work at Havelock, said: “It’s the Hilton Hotel in Aberdeen, we’ve been working on it for a year and a half, it’s complete, it’s done and dusted, but they’ll not pay it.
“They just keep snagging it. They’ve been snagging it for nine months. They’ll just not pay the money.
“We’ve got a full order book, we’ve got loads of work, the boys have been working overtime.
“We’re being sold as a going concern.”
When asked about the future, Mr Kerr said Havelock have plenty of work, but the problem is cashflow.
He said; “We’ve got banks, we’ve got Primark, we’ve got Marks and Spencers, we’ve got a full order book but we don’t have any money coming in.
“We haven’t been paid, that was meant to be today. We were told yesterday that Robertsons were going to pay it by 7pm last night but they never paid it.
“We’ll now need to chase the government for the money that Robertson is meant to give us.
“We haven’t got any money to pay the wages because Robertson and a couple of other people haven’t paid us.
“They just get a scent that a company is going into administration so the won’t pay them. But it’s them that put us in administration.
“If Robertson had paid us our money we’d have had another month, and we’ve got loads of work.”
Mr Kerr said that there would be staff unable to pay their bills as a result of the unpaid wages.
“There’s nothing wrong with the management, there’s nothing wrong with our work, we were doing great.
“All the people in here right now, they’ve got direct debits, mortgages, all to be paid because Robertson hasn’t paid.
“We were told yesterday at 3.45pm. Yesterday we were getting asked to work overtime, because Robertson would pay the money and everything would be hunky dory.”
GMB Scotland Organiser Allison Cairns said: “We have met with management briefly this morning but we left with more questions than answers.
“Administration has not been confirmed and the workforce will reconvene tomorrow morning at 10AM for a further update.
“What we do understand is that a significant cash flow problem brought about by the non-payment of money due to the business from a key contractor on the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) hotel and spa fit-out is a main source of the problem, and clearly this needs resolved urgently.
“We believe this is a viable employer, we are told that the orders books are in good shape, but there is an immediate need for Havelock’s clients to pay their bills so it can pay this workforce and sustain the business.”
Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance said: “I am extremely disappointed by the news of such a major employer within my constituency falling into difficulty.
“My thoughts are with all the workforce and their families, on whom this news will have a devastating impact.
“The company has been a significant employer in the town for many years, and the impact of its loss will be considerable.
“I have been in contact today with Jamie Hepburn MSP, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, and have written to him to urge the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise to provide all possible support, and see if every avenue can be explored to allow Havelock to continue trading and offer job opportunities in the area, and if not then hopefully a buyer can be found to invest in the firm.”
Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP Lesley Laird said: “Havelock is a major employer in my constituency. This is a shock to see a firm that we thought having previously been rescued from administration was now on a steady footing.
“This will be devastating for the workforce who I understand will not be paid. I hope that every support can be given to them to make sure that they and their families don’t suffer from the failure of Havelock at an executive level.
“This is a worrying time for them and their families as there was no notice and this will come as a huge shock to everyone that works there.
“Since yesterday every effort has been made to bring forward payments from key customers to help meet the wages bill and avert this situation but this has failed.
“It’s disappointing that Robertsons, a main customer, would not bring forward a payment that was due on August 15.
“There was money owing for work done and if paid early would have allowed staff to be paid today.
“It is galling that for the want of monies already earned, over 200 staff have lost their jobs and that this could have been avoided with a bit of good will from Havelock’s customers to pay what was due early.
“I am sure all the relevant agencies will be deployed to mitigate the impacts on our community and I hope a new owner can take the business forward.
“This is a sad day and another blow for the Kirkcaldy economy that could have been averted.”
Get in touch and tell us your story