Longannet Power Station has been the source of much discussion and media coverage over recent weeks and months.
Opening in 1970, Longannet was the largest coal-fired power station in Europe. It’s generating capacity was the highest of all power stations in Scotland. Originally the station was operated by the South of Scotland Electricity Board until 1990 when it was handed to Scottish Power (a subsidiary of Iberdrola) post the Conservative Government’s privatisation of the electricity industry.
Situated in Fife, Longannet has been a major employer in the area for decades, with generation upon generation of family members working in the facility. In addition it has contributed hugely to the local economy. However, in recent weeks Scottish Power have announced that the facility with close on 31 March 2016, around four years earlier than anticipated. This announcement followed Longannet’s failure to win a contract with the National Grid.
Longannet employs around 230 staff all of whom now face a worrying and stressful time as they try to find alternative employment. A challenge, which in this economic climate, should not be underestimated. Since closure was announced a taskforce has been set up with the aim of putting together a recovery plan to support workers, businesses and communities affected by the closure of the power station.
Sadly, at Thompsons, we see more and more large employers making redundancies, closing or going into administration. This often leaves workers void of employment in their local communities, with little, if any, assistance to learn new skills in the quest for new employment.
At the very least, by announcing the plan to close in advance employees will be consulted on how the impact of the proposed redundancies can be mitigated, suitable alternative employment opportunities discussed and, in the worst case scenario, redundancy payments paid in line with the employees contracts of employment. Too often the cases we deal with are where the management/owners of the business ignore financial problems until it’s too late.
What then happens is the workplace closes with no money left to pay staff any redundancy payments, notice or unpaid wages. Employees are left without work suddenly, they have a job one day and don’t the next. Many of the payments owed to employees are met by the Insolvency Service, but those payments cover statutory entitlement only. Any contractual enhancements are not paid.
Recently, our specialised team of solicitors were instructed by many of the former employees of Tullis Russell Papermakers in Fife after their business collapsed. During this difficult time Thompsons worked closely with the Scottish Government, Fife Council and The Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) - the Scottish Government's agency to support people facing redundancy – to ensure that the 470 staff were provided with as much support as possible to enable them to secure new employment. We also sought to ensure that individuals receive monies that were due to them. An Employment Tribunal claim has now been lodged in this matter seeking a Protective Award – this is an award made against an employer for failing to comply with their obligations regarding redundancy consultation and process.
This is the latest in a long line of cases where we have sought payments via the Employment Tribunal payments for employees in circumstances where their workplace has closed with little or no notice given to employees. USC, Scottish Coal, Flyglobespan and Woolworths are just some of the closures that we have been involved in in recent years. In Scottish Coal we recovered in excess of £1 million in payments to employees.
Redundancy and losing your job is a devastating experience. At Thompsons we are here to guide you through the process and ensure that you receive all that you are due.