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Union says Fairfield Halls staff have been treated with ‘utter contempt’

Union says Fairfield Halls staff have been treated with ‘utter contempt’
Jul 27, 2016 Shaking Hands 0 comments
This post was first published on The Croydon Advertiser on 29/07/2016

Union says Fairfield Halls staff have been treated with ‘utter contempt’

A union representing staff at Fairfield Halls has said they have been shown “utter contempt” after it emerged the body which ran the halls could not afford to pay staff redundancy.

The GMB said it had contacted the Fairfield board of directors, of charitable trust Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd on June 27 to ask for assurances that staff would get their redundancy packages, since the council had given the trust a £750,000 grant.

But staff have been left waiting on whether they will get their payments at all after being told to claim from the government’s redundancy service when the trust went into administration a fortnight ago, unable to afford to pay them.

The halls closed on July 15 for two years as part of a council plan to revamp the venue.

Frank Minal, from GMB, said: “This is a disgraceful state of affairs, when clearly Fairfield Halls were given a huge sum of money by the council and suggested that staff would be paid, then within a week to renege on this shows the utter contempt for devoted workers who have given their all to Fairfield Halls whilst it has been in operation.”

The union has also criticised the fact that a new body, Fairfield Arts Board, which will be chaired by the trust’s former chair Kate Vennell, has been set up shortly after the demise of the trust.

“Furthermore, the idea that the board of Fairfield Halls can liquidate one company and then start trading again under the name FAB Fairfield Arts Board suggests that they are beyond reproach,” said Mr Minal.

The trust and administrators said staff would recieve their payments from the government’s redundancy service.

However, a spokesman said Croydon Council was “very disappointed” over the situation, as the £750,000 grant was given on the understanding it would pay for all the closure costs, including staff, of the halls.

A spokeswoman for the trust said staff will recieve their redundancy money in August.

“Admittedly there is a delay in payment – the staff will get what is owing to them,” they said.

“The venue traded and therefore provided employment right up to the final day, so there is still money owing to the venue and this still has to be recouped. The final revenue of the charity – when it is known – will be allocated to all creditors by the administrators.”

However, the charity has disputed the council’s claim that the £750,000 grant was to fully cover the closure costs.

“When the decision to force the closure was made, the charity made it very clear to the council that £750k was insufficient to clear its balance sheet and meet all other closure costs directly caused by the forced deadline of July 15. However, the charity was told ‘to take it or leave it’,” the spokeswoman said.

“The team at Fairfield worked incredibly hard over the last period and managed to increase revenues at the end that will now be shared amongst creditors.”

“It is important remember that the council forced the closure (which has caused this in the first place), knowing the financial deficit of the venue and refused to meet the initial request by the charity for adequate funding to facilitate a clean closure.”

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