By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Former staff yesterday described Taylor Industries slide towards closure as “the most stressful thing we’ve been through”, adding: “The customers knew more about it than us.”
Elvardo Moss, one of 40 who lost their jobs when the 74 year-old electrical retailer and contractor closed, compared the way the closure was handled to “a slap in the face” as workers did not receive severance pay and any other sums due to them.
He accused Taylor Industries’ management and directors of keeping employees in the dark over the company’s fate since they revealed last January that the Shirley Street business was “in bad shape”.
With regular meetings and updates on the situation not provided to employees, Mr Moss said staff were informed about two months before the final January 7 closure that Taylor Industries was “waiting on the bank” to provide financing for its restructuring.
Yet he argued that nothing further was heard until management told employees in mid-afternoon on that same date that the company was ceasing operations. Workers were provided only with pay for that week and the National Insurance Board (NIB) unemployment form, and told that a liquidator would deal with all outstanding claims against the company - including their own.
Mr Moss said some workers, who have already spoken to the liquidator, were warned that they were unlikely to receive the full sums owed to them due to Taylor Industries’ insolvency.
Expressing concern for former colleagues who relied on their regular pay cheque, some of whom had been with the company for 20-40 years, he hit out at claims by management that employee theft was a contributing factor to Taylor Industries downfall.
While admitting this had been a problem several years ago, Mr Moss said it had been addressed. He accused the company of employing it as a public relations strategy to turn public opinion against the staff and distract from the failure to pay workers what was due to them.
“It came off the wrong way,” Mr Moss told Tribune Business of the closure. “They abruptly closed down, never gave us warning and had a heart-to-heart with the employees. We never got given severance pay; we only got paid for that week, and they told us the liquidator would take care of it.
“A lot of employees were left with nowhere to go. They worked that whole day [January 7], customers came in and bought stuff to be delivered on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I don’t know how they’re going to get it because the place is closed down.”
Taylor Industries, in confirming Tribune Business’s exclusive revelation that it had closed, revealed that three successive years of losses, combined with a harsh economic climate featuring escalating cost and tax hikes, gave them no choice but to cease trading.
“It started a year ago,” Mr Moss told this newspaper. “They told us the company was in bad shape. They had a meeting saying they were looking to sell-off and close down part of the company. They said they would have monthly meetings and updates for the staff, but it never happened.
“You could see that they’d stopped ordering stuff for nine months. We were on the front line, and customers were coming in telling us we were going to close down in January. I said: ‘I work here, I don’t know’.
“Two months ago we were told they were still waiting on the bank to get a line of credit, but did not update us on what was going on. At 3.45-4.30pm on the Monday, they said Taylor Industries was closing down. What happened to the two weeks’ pay with notice or in lieu of notice.”
Mr Moss, who had been off work sick since December due to a leg injury, leaving him on crutches and requiring hospital treatment, said he had to “jump in my vehicle” and race to the Shirley Street business to find out what was happening. He missed the meeting, and arrived to find his colleagues clutching the NIB unemployment form.
Describing himself as “between a rock and a hard place”, and having to go from seeking disability to unemployment benefits, Mr Moss said: “My biggest concern is this. They say the liquidator has to go to deal with this, go to court and wind-up on behalf of Taylor Industries.
“As employees, we will never know if we are treated fairly when it comes to termination pay. Some persons have talked to the liquidator. He’s told them he’s going to be honest, but you’re not all going to get what you think you’re going to get.”
Taylor Industries, in its closure statement, confirmed it was insolvent, meaning that its liabilities (debts) exceed its assets and there are not enough funds to settle 100 percent of what is owed to creditors - who include former employees.
Confirming that a liquidator would be appointed, the company referenced a “significant liability” related to employee terminations but did not explain what this meant, although presumably this refers to severance pay and other benefits.
Mr Moss and his colleagues must now stand in the Taylor Industries’ creditors queue. Tribune Business understands that while they rank behind the Government and any taxes owed to it, they effectively rank alongside or are next in line with any secured creditors.
Mr Moss, who was unable to identify the liquidator, described Taylor Industries’ descent into closure as “draining” and “frustrating” for staff, although he added: “It was going on for so long we were kind of prepared...
“The hurtful part that hurt most of the employees was that all of us had to go and sit with Bryan Taylor, and he gave you the NIB form and the last week’s pay, and gave you a contact e-mail if you had any concerns. That rubbed a lot of employees the wrong way. A lot of them were upset about the way it happened.”
Besides Derek and Bryan Taylor, Taylor Industries’ principals also included Ian and Allan Mabon. Mr Moss said employees were especially upset that Allan Mabon used his Facebook page to publicise the company’s closure the following day, January 8, while also using the opportunity to promote his own business that he has just set-up.
A check of Allan Mabon’s Facebook page showed this to be correct. “Good morning my friends,” the post read. “Taylor Industries has closed down and I have opened my own business. Please, any help I could get would be awesome.” That business, Service Logistics, advertises itself as involved in the electrical and refrigeration fields - exactly the same lines as Taylor Industries.
Summing up his feelings, Mr Moss told Tribune Business: “I feel as if this [the closure] was a slap in the face. It was insulting. You could see persons clearing their desks out but they were acting as if it was business as normal.
“There were a lot of rumours going around: Are you going to close or not? It was quite stressful; the most stressful thing I’ve been through.”