The company which owns Hastings Pier has been ordered by a tribunal to pay two former employees thousands of pounds in unauthorised wage deductions and holiday pay. Emma Harwood reports.

Sheikh Abid Gulzar’s company, Lions Hastings Pier Limited (LHPL), was ordered  on 17th December to pay former catering and events manager Debbie Grant £3,132. 
Former sous-chef on the pier Dan Crease will also be remunerated  but this amount will be decided at a further hearing.

Employment Judge K Bryant QC stated there had been no response from Mr Gulzar’s company, which has been given 42 days from 29th December to pay Ms Grant, who resigned from her position shortly after the pier – rebuilt with £14m of public and lottery funding  – was sold by administrators Smith & Williamson to Mr Gulzar in June 2018.In a recent interview with BBC Radio Sussex Mr Gulzar insisted his staff – a number of whom resigned shortly before Christmas –had all been paid stating: “I have paid every staff member, everyone has been paid and respected.” 

However, Ms Grant, who had worked at the pier as a freelance events manager before becoming employed as catering and events manager in February 2018 said: “I’m not confident that payment will be made. The next stage would be bailiffs. I have always acted professionally and did not want my hard work to be brushed under the carpet or my reputation tarnished and that is how they made the previous staff feel.”

There are now a number of other legal cases being brought against LHPL by staff, including those of the former full time pier engineering team. They crowdfunded over £7,500 last month to start an action for constructive dismissal against their former employer, after ceasing to work in November.

Royal Engineer Peter Wheeler – who had been the pier’s chief engineer since its reconstruction in 2013 – and his assistant, Francesca Hill, say they have been humbled by the donations and comments of support left by members of the public on their Crowdfunder page.

As previously reported by HIP, Mr Wheeler and Ms Hill claim their employment under Mr Gulzar was made untenable. Their grievances include his refusal to pay for safety inspections or new materials to maintain the structural integrity of the pier, as well as inappropriate behaviour towards Ms Hill and claims that Mr Wheeler – with 35 years marine and civil experience -was unqualified to work on or under the pier.  They now await hearing from ACAS.

Since the departure of the full time engineering team, maintenance staff from Mr Gulzar’s other pier at Eastbourne have carried out some repairs to the sub-structure, including fixing a horizontal bullhead rail back in place. 

Pier spokesperson ‘Lord’ Brett McLean tweeted recently: “The structure itself is fine, it’s the other elements of the building that need to be redone.”

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