A GREEN MSP has welcomed a pledge from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to probe the circumstances behind a Highland Council procurement decision blamed for 31 jobs being lost in Easter Ross.
John Finnie made his remarks after staff at Evanton-based William Munro Construction lost their jobs following the award of a £1.5 million recycling contract to a French-based company, SUEZ.
The MSP raised the plight of the 31 workers at First Minister’s Questions.
Uncertainty surrounds the employment status of the Munro workforce under TUPE regulations designed to protect workers transferring from one business to another.
This new contract will result in recyclable waste from across the Highlands being transported to Newcastle for processing.
Mr Finnie said: "It is extremely concerning that the Highland Council have acted in this fashion, essentially pushing 31 employees into redundancy just before Christmas. I was pleased to have the opportunity to raise the issue with the First Minister and welcome that she plans to investigate.
"It beggars belief that the council have decided they will transport this waste to Newcastle for processing. They have failed to adequately consider the workers involved, the impact this will have on the local economy in Easter Ross and the wider environmental impact transporting this waste will have and I’ve written them telling them so."
A Highland Council spokeswoman said: "The council has awarded the new contract, in line with procurement procedures and best value principles, to an established contractor.
"The new contractor can process this material at a lower price and therefore provide better value for the public in Highland.
"The council will work with partners to mitigate any impacts on the employees including ensuring that TUPE principles are applied and that advice and support are in place for those seeking alternative employment."
SUEZ was contacted for comment but had not responded as we went to press this week.