Gary Williams: administration unavoidable

More than 150 workers at Great Yarmouth firm E-Tech made redundant before Christmas

Friday, December 28, 2012
8.30 AM

More than 150 workers at a Great Yarmouth firm were made redundant on their last working day ahead of the Christmas and New Year break.

Shocked staff at the E-Tech Group were called in to a meeting at its headquarters on Harfrey’s Industrial Estate on Friday and told the firm had gone into administration with the immediate loss of all jobs, except for about 10 workers who were being kept on to help administrators BDO.

Some staff based at satellite offices in the North-East and at Southampton were given the unseasonal news in a telephone call during the afternoon.

About 50pc of staff at the firm, which specialised in offshore and shipping electrical installation work, were based locally in Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

E-Tech had run into financial difficulties linked to a major water industry contract in October but, under a company voluntary arrangement, creditors agreed a refinancing deal to help ease cashflow problems.

Director Gary Williams, himself made redundant, said: “The problems that took us into the CVA caused us so much severe damage and there have been further unfortunate events since then.

“Almost as soon as the CVA had been agreed one of our customers, South Boats on the Isle of Wight, went into administration owing us about £300,000.”

The company had since been bought by locally-based Alicat, but there was no prospect of E-Tech receiving any significant sum from the administrators.

Mr Williams, who resigned his board position on Norfolk Chamber of Commerce at the time E-Tech was hit by financial problems, said the position had become worse when several senior managers decided to leave.

He said: “We did not have a shortage of work. The problem with managers leaving was that customers were picking up vibes and were unsure whether we would finish the contract.

“In the end, we had no choice but to go into adminstration.”

Mr Williams, who has also stepped down from his roles as chief-executive of industry body Marine East and as a director of the East of England Energy Group, described the affair as a “painful process for all of us” and insisted it was “unavoidable” that some staff had been broken the news of redundancy by telephone.

He said the only hope of some staff keeping their jobs rested with the administrators being able to save part of the business.

As recently as two years ago, E-Tech was making positive headlines for successfully breaking into the lucrative market for doing electrical installations on the type of superyachts owned by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Administrators BDO was contacted by the EDP for a statement but had not responded at the time of going to press.