Bill Esterson welcomes investigation into Comet collapse as 36 m

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson with Comet staff, including store manager Daniel Isaac, shortly before the Aintree store closed for the last time.

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has welcomed news that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has launched an investigation into the collapse of electricals chain Comet.
 
Bill Esterson met with staff just before the Aintree Retail Park store closed for the last time last week.
 
Thirty-six people from the Aintree store alone lost their jobs - just days before Christmas.
 
Comet was bought for just £2 earlier this year by OpCapita who were given £50m to invest in the stores.
 
Conditions of the sale were that none of the 11,000 strong workforce would be made redundant or that the store would go into administration for at least 18 months.
 
But within months, staff say that more than 3,000 were made redundant.
 
And on November 1, Deloittes announced that Comet had gone into administration meaning the remainder faced a very uncertain future. That uncertainty led to the loss of their jobs this week.
 
Staff say they were betrayed by the company which they say has done nothing to help them.
 
Unpaid redundancy and tax payments are set to be picked up by the tax payments at a cost of £49.4m and staff believe that Op Capita will be paid while they lose much of their redundancy and bonus pay which they were promised.
 
Bill Esterson said it was a "disgrace" that people had been made redundant if companies behind the closure were profiteering.
 
Bill said: "I welcome the fact that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has launched a probe into the goings on which have led to the collapse of Comet.
 
"The whole affair has been murky to say the least. Not only are the thousands of Comet employees now on the dole, but the tax payer is footing the bill. And the staff will not even be paid full redundancy let alone bonuses which they were promised.
 
"It would not be right for any business to profit from the collapse of Comet, particularly in light of so many people finding themselves unemployed or the multimillion pound bill which is being picked up by the taxpayer. Yet the staff tell me that they have evidence which suggests that this may have well happened.
 
"I have submitted a series of questions to the government about this affair and will do all I can to submit any evidence which has been presented to me to that investigation."
 
Bill met with some of the 36 staff members at the Aintree store shortly before they pulled the shutters for the last time.
 
The MP said the entire workforce had remained professional throughout.
 
Bill said: "The staff are obviously angry. Most of the staff at the Aintree store have worked there for over a decade. Some were even in their third decade with Comet.
 
"They told me that while the company was giving them assurances that their jobs were safe, sales had picked up and they had hit targets to pick up bonuses.
 
"While they questioned some of the decisions the company was making, they were told that things were on the up. But all those assurances seem to have counted for nothing. They heard the bombshell that the company had gone under on the news while decorating the store for Christmas.
 
"And they tell me the company left them in the dark throughout."
 
After contacting Deloittes, Bill secured help for the Aintree staff and he has demanded a meeting with the company to discuss the issues raised by the former employees.
 
Bill said: "I contacted Deloittes directly and they agreed to provide support for staff to find employment elsewhere. but to be honest, this was far too little, far too late.
 
"Staff have been treated appallingly. Many had had more than 20 years' service with the company, but despite that they got little to no information or support.
 
"This is not how a workforce should be treated in this day and age.
 
"I have requested a meeting with Deloittes to put the issues directly to the administrators.
 
"If any of the accusations about alleged mis-dealings relating to this affair are true then I want to see the government take action to stop this happening again.
 
"While many will say business dealings of this kind are not illegal, they most certainly are immoral.
 
"A trusted, hard working and dedicated workforce is one of the greatest commodities any business has. It is plain wrong  for that workforce to be thrown on the scrap heap if a predatory business sees an opportunity to make a quick profit at their expense - and the expense of the British taxpayer.
 
"I will continue to work with the former employees to ensure they get any outstanding pay and that they get the support they need to find future employment."

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson with Comet staff, including store manager Daniel Isaac, shortly before the Aintree store closed for the last time.


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