Northern Ireland

Ilex: 'Substantial' sum paid to former staff

Ariel view of the former Ebrington Barracks
Image caption Ilex was set up in 2003 to regenerate two former Army bases - Ebrington Barrack (above) and Fort George

Nine people have received "a substantial six figure settlement" after bringing legal action against the Northern Ireland Executive.

They brought the action for unfair dismissal after being made redundant by the Londonderry regeneration body Ilex, trade union NIPSA said.

The Executive Office said it had settled the claims "without admission of liability".

Set up in 2003 to regenerate two former Army bases, Ilex was shut down in 2016.

The closure came amid accusations Ilex failed to deliver enough investment.

An independent review, published in July 2015, criticised the company's failure to bring in private investment.

In total 18 jobs were lost when the company closed..

Nine of its former employees took a case against the Executive Office - formerly the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) - accusing it of breaching an employment law which ensures workers move from one employer to another when a business changes hands.

Image caption Among Ilex's projects was the site of the former Ebrington Army barracks

Alison Millar from NIPSA, which represented four of the former employees, said: "At the time, NIPSA argued vehemently that, as some of the work of Ilex was being transferred to the Executive Office and the Strategic Investment Board (SIB) , its staff should also transfer under the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employees Regulations (TUPE).

"While no financial compensation can replace someone's job and the trauma that these unfair dismissals caused, the substantial six figure settlement reached in these cases shows that the Executive Office and the SIB were wrong in dismissing these individuals.

"As a result, this is money which will now come out of the public purse to compensate the individuals concerned," she added.

John McShane of McCartan Turkington Breen Solicitors represented the NIPSA members.

He said the case was a stark warning to employers that the financial implications of not following the legal protections of TUPE can be very serious.

Ilex was criticised in an independent review in July 2015 over failings in the redevelopment of Fort George Army base and Ebrington Barracks in Derry.

Ilex Failings: Summary of Report Findings July 2015

  • Ilex has not been sufficiently focused on its core purpose, the development of Ebrington (or Fort George), over the period of this review.
  • There has been mission drift as the organisation has been involved in other activities eg. City of Culture.
  • The lack of business cases for new capital projects and the feedback from funders on the quality of business case information presented in the past, highlights concerns over Ilex's ability to deliver.
  • A comparison of Ilex's costs as a percentage of capital spend against other comparators show it cost nearly four times that of the Department for Social Development.
  • The lack of progress in infrastructure investment and specifically in developing business accommodation is particularly concerning.
  • Ilex had a tendency to contact local politicians if they wish to try and achieve a result rather than working with the department concerned.

The report said the lack of progress in infrastructure investment, specifically in developing business accommodation, was particularly concerning.

Among its successes, however, the company pointed to its role in helping to build Derry's Peace Bridge and the opening of the Northern Ireland Science Park on the Fort George site.

The Northern Ireland Science Park officially opened its Derry headquarters on the Fort George site in 2014.

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