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Unions call for criminal probe into Carillion collapse

By Simon Penfold | Business | Published:

Individuals involved in the collapse of construction giant Carillion should face an immediate criminal investigation, a union leader has urged.

Carillion's headquarters building in Salop Street, Wolverhampton.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said the Insolvency Service was only just starting to investigate if laws were broken, eight months after the Wolverhampton-based company went out of business.

She told the TUC Congress in Manchester: "This is simply too little too late.

"There must be an immediate criminal investigation into Carillion, and we the trade union movement must lead that call. If no laws were broken, then we need, better, stronger laws."

She said thousands of workers and apprentices were "dumped without warning" when Carillion collapsed.

While the sale and transfer of hundreds of Carillion contracts for the Government and the private sector managed to salvage nearly 14,000 jobs – around 76 per cent of the company’s UK workforce – 2,800 people have been made redundant, nearly 400 of them at Carillion’s Wolverhampton city centre headquarters in Salop Street.

The unfinished Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick

Around 80 people are still working there on completing the liquidation process with the Insolvency Service’s special managers, accountancy PwC.

"The Government and other organisations are treating Carillion's collapse as business as normal," said Gail Cartmail.

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"There is nothing normal about the biggest corporate collapse in the UK's history.

"While thousands of workers have been thrown on the scrapheap, those responsible for driving the company into the ditch have dusted themselves off and started again as if nothing had happened.

"If nothing criminal occurred then we should be told how on earth it can be legal to have embarked on the policies pursued by Carillion's management team which drove it to the wall with little prior warning."

She questioned why a company losing millions of pounds was shown to be making a profit on paper.

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"I am advised not to say this was cooking the books, so I won't."

The unfinished Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, attacked the privatisation of public services, saying: "While Grenfell will forever be associated with neglect, Carillion will forever be associated with greed."

The conference called for an independent inquiry into the collapse of Carillion, and into privatisation of public services.

Mr Prentis told the conference: "Privatisation is all about taking from the needy and giving to the greedy. It's the pinnacle of vulture capitalism that leaves chaos, waste and human tragedy in its wake.

"Thirty miles from here lies an unfinished hospital, the Royal Liverpool. A £300 million building site abandoned by Carillion, as the company crumbled to dust.

"Carillion was a private company lauded by successive governments, deemed too big to fail.

"But its collapse left workers unpaid and apprentices sacked. Thousands of workers left worried about whether they still had jobs, their security wiped out overnight as their future came crashing down.

"The collapse of Carillion symbolises the failed dogma of privatisation. With the Royal Liverpool an epic monument to the trail of destruction wrought on our communities."

The company's failure also brought work on the Midland Metropolitan Hospital at Smethwick to a halt in January. Around 600 people had been working on the site, around 70 of them Carillion employees and the rest sub-contractors. Just a handful of former Carillion staff were kept on over the summer to try and maintain the stalled construction site.

A new firm is about to be hired to carry out repair and renovation work to get the site ready for a new building contractor next spring.

The Goverment has agreed to spend more than £300 million on completing the hospital, which is due to open in 2022 – four years late. It will bring the total cost of the project to around £500m.

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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