Thursday, 30 Nov 2017 09:33 GMT

Unpaid electricity bill brings down print firm

There is only one word that describes the situation at Stones Ashford printers in Kent, and that is a mess.

An unpaid electricity bill with E.ON led to the closure of the plant at 3pm on Friday, November 17, when the lights went off and the staff were sent home. A member of staff told Kent Live that the firm had literally kept the workforce in the dark. He says:  “Everyone went into work as normal but we were called in for a meeting. The power went off and the place went into darkness. We were told not to come back. The firm has been going since the 1800s and the people working there were lifers, but they were unrepentant about closing. There was a lot of loyalty there and people had worked there for decades. It was not just a job, they were proud to work there.”

The Unite trade union has denounced the way the directors have behaved as contemptable. Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone says the workers need guarantees they will be paid. He comments: “Loyal workers at Stones Ashford face an uncertain Christmas thanks to the contemptible behaviour of Henry Stone Printers. Bosses should be under no illusion that Unite will use every tool at its disposal to ensure the Stones Ashford workforce get their hard earned wages and are treated with respect.”

Loyal workers at Stones Ashford face an uncertain Christmas thanks to the contemptible behaviour of Henry Stone Printers

However, since the hiatus the directors have pledged to put things right by putting money up front to fund administration. Henry Stone Printers managing director, Richard, apologised for the way things had turned out and admitted communication with workers had not been good, but cited a fast moving and difficult situation. He has pledged to appoint an administrator in order to close the business in an orderly manner, as well as find jobs for the workers left high and dry just before Christmas. The pledge has been met with scepticism by some of the workforce who feel that transparency and honesty are needed, along with payment of all wages due.

Stones Ashford was formed out of the ashes on the demise of Headley Brothers earlier this year in a pre-pack deal. Henry Stones Printers of Banbury says the Kent firm is entirely separate from them.

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