Acacia Training went into liquidation this week (ending 27th Oct) as predicted by Plymouth in Unison
We had publicly called on Acacia bosses to resolve long running issues with wages over the last few weeks, during which time it was traded again.
Neither of the new owners seemed to have a grasp of the level of debt involved and at a redundancy meeting for staff on Wednesday they handed over the problem to government. UNISON will support them in claiming redundancy pay from the insolvency service but it should never have come to this.
We have no information as to whether it was a failure of due diligence on the part of the new owners of a misrepresentation of the financial health of the business by the sellers BCE Group, but we understand this firm is now also up for sale and the owners have left the area, so there may be more jobs at risk.
Staff at Plymouth training provider Acacia Training were not being paid properly since May and feared they will loose their jobs before now.
The troubled firm was sold to a new owner by BCE at the end of May, and neither the new owners nor BCE managed to pay them their salary for that month.
The new owners struggled with wages ever since, making payments that do not appear to deal with pensions or tax and providing no pay slips before they sold the company on again on 24th September according to Companies House.
A staff member said ‘this is a nightmare, every month my wages are wrong, I’m struggling to pay my bills and so anxious that Acacia isn’t sorting out my pension payments either’
Staff have been worried about every month’s salary and they are aware bills are going unpaid, including their pension contributions, and that the funder, the Education and Skills Funding agency considers that it is owed a substantial amount of money by the firm.
UNISON has lodged a case with ACAS as a first step to court proceedings to claim back the wages but with little response from Acacia. In fact they have failed even to issue the redundancy notices they promised on 27th October that should include CN (case reference) numbers to allow them to claim unpaid wages, and redundancy compensation from the insolvency service. The case will proceed to tribunal.
It shows the problem with the contract system of provision where firms that are wholly reliant on government funding are traded on the market and can go bankrupt with public money lost and staff out of pocket.
UNISON branch secretary Kevin Treweeks said ‘ Acacia is delivering a public service funded by ESFA. Dedicated Staff have continued to work to deliver this service since the takeover. five months is more than enough time for Acacia to sort out any teething troubles with wages. No one can afford to wait for their pay in todays cost of living climate”
“I’m also calling upon the ESFA to hold an enquiry into how this happened and share the outcome with the staff and the learners of Plymouth. This should be a public scandal that and I’m surprised it hasn’t attracted press attention.
After Acacia failed to deliver redundancy notices to staff after informing them verbally on 25th October that the company was insolvent and they were all being made redundant UNISON has reported Acacia to the Insolvency Service and the ESFA. As of 16th Nov there is still no communication from the company