Three North East firms named and shamed for failure to pay staff the minimum wage

Car retailer Vertu Motors plc was among 48 companies listed as Business Minister Jo Swinson said there was 'no excuse'

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Three North East employers, including one of the region’s most prominent car retailers, have been “named and shamed” for failing to pay staff the National Minimum Wage.

Among the 48 firms named by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills was Vertu Motors plc, trading as Bristol Street Motors, Gateshead; Woodside MOT and Service Centre in Middlesbrough and Pygall Coaches in Peterlee.

A spokesperson for Vertu Motors PLC said: “This disclosure refers to one incident when an administrative error was made at the point apprentices moved up.

“Once it was discovered it was immediately rectified and a back payment was made. We have well over 4000 employees and we have implemented systems to ensure errors do not occur in the future.”

Garry Evis, the proprietor of Woodside MOT and Service Centre, said his inclusion related to money owed to a former apprentice who had bought tools but subsequently left the business.

Mr Evis: “I shouldn’t be expected to provide tools, the employee has chosen this as his trade and these are the tools of his trade.

“I don’t think for a minute this will impact my business as I have a lot of regular customers who know me well and the way the business operates. I don’t think the Government help out small businesses at all, and this naming and shaming is just one example of this.

“I know have no intention of taking on another apprentice because of the hassle this has caused.”

Keith Pygall, the director of Pygall Coaches, said his firm’s appearance on the list was down to a dispute with a former employee, and was scathing of the Government’s approach to National Minimum Wage enforcement.

He explained: “I’m a good employer and in all my years in business have never had anything like this before.

“A representative from HM Revenue & Customs has been to visit our business numerous times and knows the back story, yet I get included on this list — it’s disgusting.”

Andrew Milligan/PA Wire MP Jo Swinson
MP Jo Swinson

Business Minister Jo Swinson said there was no excuse for companies that do not pay their staff the correct wages, whether by wilfully breaking the law, or by making “irresponsible” mistakes.

The latest list of firms includes major national names such as Toni & Guy, Conde Nast and French Connection, and brings the total number of companies named and shamed under the Government’s new regime to 210, with total arrears of more than £635,000 and penalties of more than £248,000.

Vertu Motors plc, trading as Bristol Street Motors, Gateshead, was listed for neglecting to pay £1,001.42 to one worker. Garry Evis, trading as Woodside MOT and Service, Middlesbrough was listed for neglecting to pay £232.55 to one work. Keith Pygall, trading as Pygall Coaches, Peterlee, was listed for neglecting to pay £198.34 to one worker.

Last week it was announced the National Minimum Wage is to increase by 20p an hour to £6.70, from October. The hourly rate for 18 to 20-year-olds will go up from £5.13 to £5.30 (3%) and by 8p to £3.87 for 16 and 17-year-olds (2%).

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