Uncertainty for 300 workers at Haymills

MORE than 300 workers at one of Suffolk's biggest construction firms face an anxious wait after the company admitted it may go into administration.

Elliot Furniss

MORE than 300 workers at one of Suffolk's biggest construction firms face an anxious wait after the company admitted it may go into administration.

The workers at Haymills, based in Stowmarket, were not paid last week and it could get even worse unless the firm finds a solution to the financial shortfall it faces.

The problems could also have a major impact on many sub-contractors in the area.

Although a company spokesman said it was operating “well within” its banking facility and performing well despite the credit crunch, The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) suddenly “changed the rules” and froze all payments as of last Wednesday.

The spokesman confirmed that staff had not been paid and management were seeking an alternative financial solution to the predicament by the end of the week, including the potential sale of the company, but administration remained a possibility.

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He said: “We firmly feel that the goalposts have changed. We needed a short-term fix that would guarantee the company's future for the long-term - some leeway. And we were bang on course and then on Wednesday last week the rules were changed by the bank and they froze payments, even though we were well within our banking facility.

“We're talking to a number of different people about a number of different options and all of it concludes on Friday, one way or another.

“The worst case would be administration, the best case and medium case would be we continue as per normal, but under a different style of going forward. It's fair to say things are going to change.

“We're very close to a re-funding deal which will remove the need for any bank overdraft facility.”

Haymills, part of the Haymills Group, was founded in 1911 and draws almost half of its 700-strong national workforce from Suffolk and up to one hundred more from around Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

It has won awards in recent years for its work redeveloping Ickworth House, the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds and constructing the Stephen Hawking Building in Cambridge.

The company's struggles are having a serious knock-on effect on its sub-contractors, who have also gone unpaid, but work is continuing at dozens of sites in the region.

The spokesman added: “In East Anglia we're extremely lucky and we have fantastic sub-contractors and we have known them through many years and they have stuck by us through thick and thin.

“Management and the guys on site who have worked with these sub-contractors all find ourselves in the same boat, trying to find the right way (forward).”

Brian Rye, eastern region secretary for UCATT, the UK's only trade union specialising in construction, said many members had been raising concerns about the situation at Haymills.

He said: “We've been responding to calls from members and advising them of the possible outcomes, but very much we're in the hands of the company, in the hope that they can secure the finance to maintain the business.

“With all the jobs at risk, we hope they achieve that.”

Last night a spokesman for RBS said that due to strict rules governing customer confidentiality, they were unable to comment on the case.

She said: “Our lending criteria remains unchanged and each lending case is viewed on its own merit and a detailed assessment is made on the viability of each business proposition to ensure that companies taking on debt have the ability to repay.

“We are determined to support customers that need our help, but this has to be on a viable commercial basis.”