Staff working for firm in clinical waste scandal ‘won’t be paid at Christmas’

Staff who work for a firm at the centre of a clinical waste scandal were sent text messages telling them they would not be paid this Christmas, it is claimed.

The messages allegedly told some employees of Healthcare Environmental Services (HES) that – as it stands – their wages would not go into their banks on Friday.

Staff members were reportedly left in tears after hearing the news.

A text message which staff allegedly received told them to “switch off” and “try and enjoy your Christmas” after telling them they might not be paid in time.

Just earlier this year, the firm was accused of letting hospital waste build up at UK sites, the Daily Record reports.

A source said about 150 staff at the Scottish HQ in Shotts, Lanarkshire, are fearing for their jobs – and around 400 UK-wide – as bosses reveal they are looking for a buy-out deal following the loss of their major NHS contracts.

They also reportedly lifted the lid on “disgraceful” conditions at the site in recent days, saying the company has reached crisis point.

Backlogs in the firm’s disposal of clinical waste first came to light in October, when they lost contracts held with 17 Yorkshire and Humber health trusts and subsequently lost all of their work with the NHS across England and Scotland.

Despite ongoing problems, workers north of the Border say they were assured they would be paid as usual over the Christmas period.

But a crushing text message reportedly from HES managing director Garry Pettigrew’s son at 3.33pm on Christmas Eve revealed otherwise.

It read: “Guys, as it stands the bank are still unwilling to release the funds for Friday.

“We are putting all kinds of pressure on them to do so but they still haven’t budged yet.

“We are still in talks with potential buyers and also looking ton TUPE staff (transfer of Undertakings protection of employment regulations) as is normal legal practice when a contract goes to another supplier but as we all know, the Government and all the others have been playing dirty tricks with us for months now.

“We’ll have a further update on Thursday for you all.

“Try and enjoy your Christmas and switch off for a couple of days. Best wishes.”

One worker said: “Some staff didn’t get the message so it was being circulated on Christmas Eve. There are single mothers among the staff who are very frightened, others who are in their twilight years and nearing their retirement.

“There were some in tears. We have been duped by the plant manager, who told us not to worry and the bank would pay.”

The Daily Record has been sent images taken at the depo in recent days, which a worker says shows an unacceptable amount of waste building up at the site.

The employee branded conditions at the plant a “disgrace” and said: “If the site does close, the Government and the taxpayer will probably have to pick up the bill of cleaning up the mess.”

Problems first came to light when the The Environment Agency partially closed HES’s Normanton site near Leeds in October.

Excess waste at the site is understood to have reached 350 tonnes in September – five times more than the firm’s permitted limit.

It was found to be in breach of its permits at five sites in England.

Health minister Stephen Barclay said the clinical waste was stored securely but was not being processed and disposed of within required time limits.

HES claim they had previously tried to warn the Government of a lack of incineration capacity within the UK and had invested in trying to get Scotland’s incineration services back on par.

The firm say they are pursuing legal action against the trusts who terminated their contracts, seeking damages of up to £15million.

But the Environment Agency say their claims are “not true” and inspections show the rest of the sector is “performing well”.

HES boss Pettigrew said he hoped the company could work with the NHS again in the future and said Scotland’s clinical waste should be dealt with within Scotland to avoid a crisis.

Earlier this month, he said: "Hundreds of tonnes of clinical waste, including body parts, is still sitting in car parks in Yorkshire’s hospitals, more than two months after the Minister for Health said it would be cleared.

"This is what will happen next in Scotland and at the busiest time of the year for the NHS."

Mirror Online has contacted HES for comment.

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