EXCLUSIVE: STAFF FEAR MAJOR JOB LOSSES AT LEADING NORTHERN IRELAND CONSTRUCTION COMPANY

WORKERS at one of Northern Ireland’s leading construction companies are bracing themselves for further job cuts.

And they fear for the future of 100-year-old Ballymena building firm Patton Construction as it has suffered huge losses in the financial downturn.

Belfast Daily understands that management at the Ballymena firm, which has been in business for 100 years, held talks on Friday about its long term future.

It is understood a fresh wave of losses and even the stark possibility of going into administration are on the table.

However, Patton Construction are refusing to be drawn on the possibility of job losses or even administration.

In a statement to Belfast Daily, a spokesman for Patton said the business was facing cash pressures as a result of the recent downturn in the construction sector.

He added: “We have been working with our bank over recent months to seek to navigate our way through what has been and continues to be a very difficult period. This contact is ongoing.”

In the last two years of financial accounts, Patton’s has made total losses of £17 million despite huge turnover.

Earlier this year, the company confirmed it was shedding staff.

Around 50 staff lost their jobs during the last wave of lay-offs in February and March..

Patton has a turnover of about £160m and until recently employed around 420 staff.

Its most recent set of accounts show it reported an annual pre-tax loss of more than £10m.

As part of the downturn in business, the company has been attempting to to reduce costs across a number of areas.

The company confirmed some staff have recently been made redundant and others are expected to lose their jobs, but declined to say how many.

Since the start of the year, it is understood about 25 workers have been laid off and a further 25 were also lost in the first quarter of this year.

The company said a number of candidates for voluntary redundancy had come forward, thereby reducing the numbers likely to be affected by compulsory redundancy.

A spokesperson said it was announced at the beginning of January that a number of roles were at risk of redundancy.

He said the company had since completed a collective consultation process and as a result of this a number of candidates for voluntary redundancy had come forward, thereby reducing the numbers of staff likely to be affected by mandatory redundancy.

He added: “As a business we are striving to be as efficient and competitive as possible and we need to be leaner throughout our operation to allow us to compete successfully in each of our core operating sectors.

“This unfortunate process reflects the prolonged downturn in the construction sector and is driven by the demands of the current fiercely competitive market place.

“We are totally committed to our business strategy and we are aggressively pursuing new business opportunities throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe.”

As well as its Ballymena headquarters, the company has offices in Dublin and London and has redeployed some of its sales effort and staff to multiple projects throughout Britain and further afield.

Patton is a family business which celebrates its centenary this year.

The firm has last reported an annual pre-tax loss of more than £7m.

The details are contained in Ballymena-based Patton Group’s 2011 accounts.

It was an improvement on the £10m loss in 2010 and the directors said it had been “an improving year” in “a very difficult trading environment”.

The firm’s bottom line was hit by a combination of a reduction in the value of its development land and restructuring costs.

Turnover rose 8% to just over £176m and returned an operating profit of £2m.

However, that was wiped out by a £5m writedown in the value of development land, £1m in redundancy costs and a £2m inter company loan write off.

Over the year the number of staff fell from 494 to 409 reducing staff costs from £18.5m to £15.7m.

 

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