£82,000 Debt Left in Limbo

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A TEAM of Truro doormen awarded more than £82,000 by employment tribunals are claiming a security firm has avoided paying up by exploiting “loopholes” in business law.

The L2 nightclub in Truro was purchased out of administration in the summer of 2010 with no redundancies being made from new owners Peter and Jason Masters. Then, with just weeks to go until Christmas, security staff discovered that they were being transferred to Pathfinder (UK) Ltd.

Former assistant head doorman Rob Penhaligon said:

“We didn’t have any qualms.”

But Pathfinder (UK) Ltd director Kenneth Gordon then stopped their work, giving shifts to others.

Former head doorman Anthony Caruana said:

“I asked if I was going to get any work and they said, ‘not at the moment’.

“We had not been given a P45 or P60. We were told we were on a ‘zero hour’ contract – effectively we were left in limbo.”

After unsuccessfully attempting to meet with their new employed over a period of several weeks, the decision was made to take Pathfinder (UK) Ltd to an employment tribunal. Ultimately, 11 of the staff were found to have been dismissed unfairly and were awarded £76,031.83 in total. Interest added after 42 days took this to more than £82,000.

Doorman Dickie Vinson, who won an award in the first tribunal, said:

“On the first day we won, but on the second we came in to find out what we had been awarded and they (Ken Gordon and his solicitor) didn’t even come in to argue the case.”

Shortly after the doormen applied for tribunals on April 10 last year, Pathfinder Security Services Ltd was set up, of which Mr Gordon was also a director. Within two weeks of the result of the first tribunal Mr Gordon had resigned as director of the new Pathfinder company and the company name was changed to SIA Security Services South West Ltd.

While Pathfinder (UK) Ltd and SIA Security Services South West Ltd are different companies and have different directors, calls to a number linked to Pathfinder (UK) Ltd are answered by SIA Security Services South West Ltd staff.

Pathfinder (UK) Ltd’s former web address redirects to SIA Security Services South West Ltd. Company websites, which are no longer active, linked both Pathfinder companies, while Pathfinder (UK) Ltd and SIA Security Services South West Ltd share an address and have similar logos.

A five-year £7 million contract for Plymouth City Council’s event security was awarded to Pathfinder (UK) Ltd and three other companies in 2009.

In May a council spokesman said:

“Pathfinder are now trading with the council under SIA Security Services South West Ltd.”

In March this year Mr Gordon became director of a new company, Security South West Ltd, registered to the Plymouth address of SIA Security Services South West Ltd. SIA Security South West staff said he runs the company’s monthly training for industry badges, and St Austell Brewery also confirmed he runs courses for them.

Pathfinder (UK) Ltd’s accounts were not filed in 2011 and Companies House applied to strike it off, but this was suspended when Mr Penhaligon, an unnamed third party and an unnamed government organisation objected.

Collection company High Court Enforcement Group (HCE) has been chasing the tribunal award money. In law it can only pursue the company against which the tribunal award was made.

Mr Gordon told the West Briton:

“There is no real comment I can make”, adding the tribunals sunk Pathfinder (UK) Ltd, which has not traded since.

He subsequently failed to return calls or respond to e-mails.

Mr Penhaligon, L2 assistant head doorman for eight years, said he believed the system was unfair and that company directors should be personally liable.

“If you (as an individual) get a court ruling (against you) and don’t pay out you are breaking the law.”

But if the ruling was against a limited company, the directors were not personally liable.

Mr Penhaligon added:

“It’s just so frustrating. In my opinion they’ve just used loopholes in the law to get what they wanted and avoid paying.”

Doorman Don Florin said:

“What’s the point – we’ve done it all by the book but we’re no better off.”

Mr Vinson, now working at Bunters in Truro, added:

“We’re not going to give up. We don’t feel this is justice.”

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