Eville & Jones picks up bill for non-payment of vets

The sole provider of veterinary services to meat businesses in England has warned that it is facing serious financial challenges after taking on staff who were not paid by their former employer.

Eville & Jones transferred 130 staff from Grants Veterinary Services Ltd (GVSL) on 2 April as part of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) meat hygiene contract award. However, GVS failed to pay the staff their final salary and expenses, which were due on 31 March, leaving many staff unable to pay their mortgage repayments and rent.

Jason Aldiss, managing director of Eville & Jones, told Meat Trades Journal that he has processed payment for the staff and issued interim loans, despite the fact that they were not in his employment during March. However, he warned that the bill – which is estimated at £500,000 – could pose a serious threat to his business.

“A payment of £500,000 will potentially put us into cashflow insolvency and cause us considerable business issues,” he said. “This is our first month of nearly 400 employees, which means I am carrying a huge payroll obligation, which I have met before my payment comes in. I hadn’t anticipated an extra £500,000, so potentially it could bring us down.”

Aldiss added that the FSA was being “very supportive and doing what it can within its limitations”. However, Eville & Jones is liable for the payment under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations.

Trade union UNISON has accused the FSA of handling the situation badly, and has organised a protest outside the FSA offices today (13 April).

Simon Watson, UNISON national officer, said: “More than 100 vets have not been paid for up to two months after the contractor that the FSA paid to employ them lost the contract. The new contractor has now promised to pay their wages, but the £500,000 cost could put terms and conditions in jeopardy in the future.
“Despite not being paid, our members have continued working to safeguard animal welfare and to make sure that the meat on our plates is safe to eat. If they hadn’t worked, our meat supply could have been disrupted.
“The FSA needs to recognise this commitment, and do the right thing by getting a grip of this situation. The agency were warned about the perilous state of the original contractor, but refused to take the warnings seriously. Now the vets and their families are paying the price. UNISON will hold both the FSA and Grants to account over the missing money.”

A spokesperson for the FSA said: “The FSA is aware that the staff formerly employed by Grants Veterinary Services Ltd have not been paid by their former employer, which is no longer retained as a contractor by the FSA.  We have had a number of discussions with their new employer, which has undertaken to pay the outstanding salaries, and we believe payments have now been made.”

They added that the Agency had received formal notification of the appointment of an administrator for GVLS this afternoon.