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Wincanton staff on a haulage contract for brick maker Ibstock have found themselves without jobs after national haulage firm Bimson won the work and refused to accept TUPE applied.

The Unite union has now threatened to launch a legal claim against the companies after the former Wincanton staff turned up to work for their new employer this month and were told to go home.

In a letter to employees after Bimson won the contract, Wincanton said it had tried to do “everything in its power” to convince the specialist haulier of construction materials that its position was incorrect.

The plc advised the 21 HGV drivers and support staff to report for duty when the contract transferred on 3 July.

However, when the staff turned up for work on that date, they found their offices locked and in darkness: “We called Bimson to advise we had arrived and were ready to work but we were told TUPE didn't apply, we were not employed by Bimson and that we should go home,” said one worker.

Shortly before this date, Bimson wrote to the Wincanton staff telling them TUPE did not apply: “In particular, it does not consider that there is an organised grouping of employees principally engaged on the Ibstock contract and therefore the legal test has not been met,” the letter said.

One former Wincanton employee, Oliver Porter, said they were now in limbo and fighting for financial survival: “I am absolutely devastated and appalled to have been treated this way,” he said.

“I have lost the job that I loved, enjoyed and dedicated myself to. There is no doubt in my mind that TUPE should have applied but sadly Bimson Haulage believes otherwise.

“The situation has placed enormous strain on me and my family, resulting in poor mental health and increased anxiety.”

Another, Craig Goulden, who worked out of Ibstock’s West Sussex brickyard, said: “We have families to support and bills to pay but we’ve been treated as if we are just nothing. My wife has multiple sclerosis and the situation has made us both sick with stress.”

A Wincanton spokeswoman said: “We can confirm Wincanton’s services for Ibstock in Durham and Sussex transferred to Bimson on 3 July.

“We are acutely conscious of the uncertainty created for colleagues by this change. Since being informed of the loss of our contract Wincanton has done everything in our power to affect a smooth TUPE transfer to the new provider.”

Bimson Haulage was approached for comment and in a statement it said it put the welfare of its staff at the centre of everything it did and it recognised “how stressful and unsettling” the situation was for the workers.

Bimson added: “However, we have always maintained since the start of this year that we do not believe that TUPE is applicable.

“We have had an on-going dialogue with Wincanton over several months, re-iterating this position and have offered to talk directly to the workers impacted, however Wincanton prevented this happening. We have also reiterated this position to Unite, offering to talk directly to their members.

“We shall continue to work with all parties involved to explore resolutions for those impacted. This situation is now subject to legal proceedings.”

An Ibstock spokesman said it had spent the last 18 months focusing on strengthening its haulage suppliers and he added: “We are aware of a recent dispute between two of our haulage partners and have worked hard to try and facilitate a resolution that is acceptable to both parties.

“We are disappointed that such a resolution has not yet been achieved and continue to encourage both sides to work together constructively to resolve the situation.”

Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham said the way the workers had been treated was “vile”.

The union’s regional officer Phil Silkstone added: “All three companies should be ashamed of themselves and Unite will be holding all concerned to account.

“If this matter is not resolved without delay, Unite will be launching a legal claim in order for a tribunal to make the decision these companies could not.”