NEWS
14/01/2018 19:56 GMT

Union Blasts Carillion's 'Reckless Corporate Irresponsibility' Amid Last-Ditch Rescue Talks

Construction giant has reportedly asked for £300m taxpayer bail-out.

The UK’s largest trade union has called for a public inquiry into struggling construction giant Carillion, hitting out at “reckless corporate irresponsibility” as thousands of workers wait for news of their fate.

Talks involving government ministers and company bosses were held throughout the weekend as the Unite union warned that thousands of jobs and workers’ pensions were at risk.

The firm has struggled since reporting half-year losses of £1.15 billion and a meeting was held on Friday to discuss its pensions deficit.

The Mail on Sunday has reported it has asked for the £300 million it needs by the end of the month to stay afloat.

Carillion, which employs 20,000 workers in the UK, is a key supplier to the Government and has contracts in the rail industry, education and NHS.

Projects include building part of the HS2 high-speed rail line between London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester and maintaining 50,000 homes for the Ministry of Defence.

Among many ongoing projects, Carillion is building the £335m new Royal Liverpool Hospital, which is at least a year behind schedule.

Jim Kennedy, national officer for local government, said: “Public services, vast amounts of public money, thousands of jobs - including in a lengthy supply chain of insecure agency workers who are also at risk - and workers’ hard-saved pensions are all in danger of being dragged under by yet another bout of reckless corporate irresponsibility.

“Only a full and rapid public inquiry will get to the bottom of this, and set us truly on a course to stop such taxpayer rip-offs happening again.

“Of course, the best way to stop the public having to pick up the tab for these repeated private sector failings is to take these contracts back in-house.”

Carillion has met lenders to discuss options to reduce debts, recapitalise and/or restructure the group’s balance sheet.

Administrators could be called in within days unless shareholders, creditors or the Government agree to stump up funds, it is believed.

Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “It is a going concern, it’s a very commercially sensitive situation so I wouldn’t comment further than to say it is a going concern.

“I would hope to see that the working capital they need will be there, working with their partners.

“But of course ministers and my colleague the Secretary of State at Business is keeping a very close eye on it.”

Jon Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, warned the collapse of Carillion could badly impact the health service, where it is running several building projects along with facilities management at a handful of hospitals.

He told Sky News: “I think we need some urgent clarity from the Government about whether, if Carillion sadly goes under, those hospitals will be able to provide meals to patients on the wards this winter.

“I’m asking for the Government, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, or a Government minister, to come to the House of Commons tomorrow and give us that clarity and give piece of mind to patients.”