Friday, June 29, 2012

Hastie Group labourers still high and dry in United Arab Emirates. Yet to receive a cent in payouts.

By Business editor Peter Ryan - EXCLUSIVE

Five weeks after the collapse of the Hastie Group, 1,000 staff based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been left in the lurch, with their former managers forced to support them out of their own pockets.
Listen to the story broadcast on this morning's edition of AM.

In Australia, about 80 per cent of the 2,700 workers made redundant are now back working for other contractors, having received their full termination entitlements.

But the 1,000 mainly Indian and Bangladeshi labourers are yet to see a cent of their entitlements, known locally as gratuities, after Hastie's bank account was drained of $3 million just days before administrators were appointed.

And a small group of Hastie managers, who have been using their own money to help abandoned employees, claim they have been left high and dry by the administrators.

Hastie's general manager in Abu Dhabi, Darren Hunt, is one of four bosses left in the country, and like his workers, he feels abandoned.

He says managers have been left in the lurch and are standing by foreign labourers at their own personal expense to meet food and housing costs.

"I think that what has happened is criminal," he told AM.

"The three senior managers have absconded the country, left 940 employees in the Middle East.

"There is a humanitarian issue where we have got to accommodate people, we've got to provide food.

"We've got no funds to do that, we've got no access to do that and we've got no signatures to do that. I think there is a humanitarian issue and I think these people have got no morals doing what they've done."

"We are incurring, you know, daily expenses to try and make sure we do the right thing by these people.

"My personal expenses to date to Hastie are 90,000 dirhams which is probably 15,000 pounds, $30,000, I've got no chance of recovering."

Mr Hunt claims Hastie's Australian-based administrators have ignored offers to help sell assets and call in debts to open up the money pipeline to help pay out local employees.

"I've had interested parties in buying Hastie International Abu Dhabi, which was a profitable business, which had limited liabilities, and had quite a large debt in the market that was due and could have been collected," he said.

"That debt alone would have paid for all this to be administered properly and the business closed down properly."

The Hastie Group's joint administrator Craig Crosbie sympathises, but rejects those claims.

"We've actually asked that the management over there to articulate exactly what assets they are talking about but you know, none of that has been forthcoming unfortunately," he said.

And Mr Crosbie says he does not have the power to treat Hastie's foreign workers the same as Australians.

"In Australia in the circumstance we've got, we can make an application to the Federal Government and they step in and pick up these entitlements, which if we didn't have there would be a number of Australians who would be in the same boat as what these people in the Middle East are," he said.

But Darren Hunt will not be trying to sell that explanation to his workers.

"Get your arse to the UAE and help us with this situation, you know. It is unacceptable," he said.

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