GMB union boss Tim Roache has said the government’s response to the Carillion crisis has been “inadequate and inept”.
The construction giant has gone bust, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
Mr Roache said that his union had called on Business Secretary Greg Clark to set up a task force to help private sector companies and employees affected by Carillion’s collapse.
The government offered firms working in the private sector 48 hours of support which runs out on Wednesday.
Mr Roache said the government had told employees that if another private sector company had not taken them on by then, “then here’s the Job Centre Plus address. That’s frankly scandalous.”
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He called on other private sector companies to take on affected workers without a change in their terms and conditions – a process that he admitted would not be a short one.
He added: “We said to Greg Clark that we need more time, those companies need more time and we’ve suggested this task force that is led by the government, that includes trade unions representing the workers and that includes businesses, because small and medium enterprises have a real role to play.”
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‘It’s been an ongoing battle to get paid’
Shaun Weeks runs the cleaning firm Paragon Services. He told BBC 5 live Breakfast they had withdrawn the cleaner they had working full-time in a local prison.
“We’d been chasing them for money, we hadn’t been paid since July and when we heard the rumours about a week-and-a-half ago that Carillion were in a lot of trouble, we really pressed.
“Fortunately for ourselves, we did actually get paid the money that was owed to us for the work that she’d done between August and November.
“We’ve pulled our cleaner out at the moment and we’re just still waiting to hear from them what’s happening next before we send her back in again.
“It looks like we are going to lose the December invoice money that we’ve sent them and obviously the first two weeks of January.
“It’s been an ongoing battle since we’ve been in there to get paid and we’re not prepared to take the risk while they’re in liquidation.
“Until we see something in black and white saying that, ‘Yes, you will get paid on these set terms,’ then we will consider sending our cleaner back in again.”
Carillion went into liquidation on Monday after rescue talks with its lenders and the government failed to reach a deal.
The UK’s second-biggest construction company ran into trouble after losing money on big contracts and running up huge debts of around £1.5bn.
The company employed 43,000 people worldwide, 20,000 in the UK, and the government has said staff and contractors working on public sector contracts will continue to be paid.
But 30,000 smaller firms which have been working on Carillion projects in the private sector face an uncertain future and are waiting to learn whether they will be able to get hold of money owed to them.
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