‘I had to choose between buying my daughter a Christmas present or paying my rent’

Philips Avent in Glemsford.

Philips Avent in Glemsford. - Credit: Archant

Factory workers have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket in a holiday pay dispute, leaving some having to fend off threats of eviction and unable to buy Christmas presents.

Elziebeta Stupiak, a worker at Philips Avent factory

Elziebeta Stupiak, a worker at Philips Avent factory - Credit: Archant

Around 40-50 mostly female factory workers at the Philips Avent Factory in Glemsford have been affected by the dispute, which arose after the firm decided to switch the labour supplier they use from OSR Recruitment, which is based in Norwich, to Randstad Solutions Ltd, based in Luton.

Philips Avent’s contract with OSR terminated on Sunday, with Randstad Solutions due to take over from this week.

According to Philip Saunders, director of OSR Recruitment, it was initially agreed that Randstad would transfer the employees over with continuity of service and their employment contracts honoured, in accordance with TUPE regulations.

But Mr Saunders has accused Randstad of a “dramatic u-turn”.

Philips Avent in Glemsford.

Philips Avent in Glemsford. - Credit: Archant

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“It is important to understand that we supplied Philips Avent with our employees, not temporary or agency workers,” he explained. “Instead, they (Randstad) were going to offer our employees the opportunity to become temporary agency workers for them – doing the same job at Philips Avent at the same location, but without any of their employment rights protected.”

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OSR is now demanding that responsibility to pay holiday pay accrued until January 7 is met by Randstad Solutions.

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Mr Saunders believes that if Randstad seek to avoid liability, “a legal dispute is likely to arise”.

This newspaper has approached Ranstad Solutions for comment and has so far had no response.

Meanwhile, OSR’s former employees are feeling the pinch, and claim that their phone calls and emails to OSR are going unanswered.

Camila Fracasso, a 32 year-old Brazilian who lives in Ipswich, claims that she is owed £658 in unpaid holiday. “It made a huge difference to my Christmas, not having the money,” said Ms Fracasso, who been working for OSR for the last nine months. “I was forced to choose whether to spend what money I had left on a Christmas present for my 14-year-old daughter or pay my rent. I had to pay the rent, because I didn’t want to lose our home. She could understand that. But it’s not fair.”

Leann Hofmann, 34, of Stoke Park Drive, Ipswich, has been working as an operator at the Phillips Avent factory for the last two and a half years through OPR Recruitment and claims that OSR stopped paying for holiday leave in September.

“They are refusing, and when we phone up, they just pass it from pillar to post. We had a message from them last week saying that if you left Philips and are not transferring over (to Randstad), let us know and we’ll pay you in the first week of January. Now, they are saying January 31. They keep changing it. Some people are owed thousands of pounds and they cannot pay their rents.”

Soraia Chora, 28, from Downside Close in Ipswich, claims that she is owed about £600 for the ten days’ holiday she took in November. “It’s causing problems because I don’t have money to pay my rent,” said Ms Chora, who is a Portuguese single mum with two children. She has worked for OSR for two years. “I feel angry and frustrated – I cry all day because I am alone with my kids here.”

Elzbieta Stupiak, of Leisling Close, Ipswich, took around 23 days off – 17 of which were to look after her sick mother – and claims to be owed almost £1,000.

“I had to take some holiday, because my mum was not very well. I called so many times, but the guy who is dealing with this never answers his phone. I am so nervous. How am I supposed to pay my rent, food and bills?

“I have three grandsons and struggled to buy them Christmas presents this year.

“One of the ladies in this situation is pregnant, and one man has cancer. The people doing this to us have very cold hearts.”

Mr Saunders suggests that aggrieved former employees should bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal, “since this will allow us to join Randstad Solutions in as a co-respondent and have the real issue determined; namely that this was a TUPE transfer and that all of our former employees have been unfairly dismissed.”

Philips Avent has released a statement to this newspaper, which sys: “OSR held a long-standing contract with Philips to provide temporary labour services.

“In 2016 we conducted a standard review of our external providers and took the decision to consolidate these services under a single global provider, Randstad. The termination of our relationship with OSR became effective on January 6, 2019.

“At Philips, we are committed to ensuring fair treatment of all employees and operating with the highest standard of ethics. Throughout the transition period we have paid OSR in full, including holiday pay, which their employees are legally entitled to receive.

“We are unable to comment on the payments that OSR makes to its employees nor the reason behind any potential payments owed.

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