Staff were called into the meeting around lunch time with no idea they would leave the room unemployed.
All staff members from a Gold Coast company were called into a board room meeting at lunch time on Thursday. By the time they left the room, they were all unemployed.
All 15 of them were terminated on the spot after the company, Pivotal Homes, became the latest casualty in Australia’s struggling construction sector.
The managing director, Michael Irwin, publicly announced just hours later that the organization had gone into liquidation, citing rising labor and construction costs as the reason it was impossible to carry on.
Staff had no warning that the business was doing badly, nor were they given any notice that they should start looking for jobs.
Tom Egan, the head sales manager for Pivotal Homes, said he and a dozen or so other staff members were “devastated” by the company’s sudden collapse.
“No one knew,” Mr Egan, who has worked in the construction sector for 25 years, told news.com.au.
“At 1.30pm [on Thursday] everyone was called to the boardroom. The liquidator advised that we were terminated.
“It’s devastating for everybody, you had staff there [who had been working for] up to 10 years.”
Mr Egan said he only reported to the managing director, Mr Irwin, and otherwise oversaw all operations, and saw no signs that the company was on its last legs.
Mr Egan emphasized that nobody knew it was coming, explaining: “All bills were paid, nothing was ever unpaid, there was no warning sign.”
Staff won’t be given any kind of severance package.
Instead, liquidators will pay them out any leave entitlements they’ve increased, and that’s it.
The sales director, who worked for Pivotal Homes for just over three years, said he planned to take a break from the sector for a little while.
News.com.au has contacted Pivotal Homes for comment.
Dozens of angry customers have contacted Mr Egan demanding answers, even though he no longer works for the company.
He said anyone left out of pocket from the collapse should get in touch with the liquidators, Chris Cook and James Robba of Worrell’s.
Affected homeowners can also claim home warranty insurance, which is administered by the Queensland government through the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC).
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Mum-of-two Ashley Wu, 38, suspected Pivotal Homes staff had no idea of their impending doom because of her interactions with them in the lead up to the company’s collapse.
The Brisbane resident was trying to build a home after purchasing an empty lot in Ipswich last year but was beset by pricing problems and delays.
She is concerned about what will happen to her $18,000 deposit now that the company has gone bust.
Earlier this year, Pivotal Homes asked Ms Wu if she would fork out an extra $34,000 for her $363,500 build.
Ms Wu consulted with her solicitor, who said legally she didn’t have to pay them any extra because the contract was fixed.
But understanding the stress the building sector was under, Ms Wu negotiated with the company and ended up agreeing to pay an additional $24,000.
On Wednesday, they finally reached an agreement, which is why the land owner was confused to hear that just a day later the company had gone bust.
Staff were also asking Ms Wu to sign off on drawing contracts that could then be sent to the local council less than 24 hours before the company officially went under.
“It didn’t seem like staff were aware,” she said.
The construction industry has been badly hit by collapses this year.
Two major Australian construction companies including Gold Coast-based Condev and industry giant Probuild have already gone into liquidation this year.
Smaller operators like Hotondo Homes Hobart and Perth firms Home Innovation Builders and New Sensation Homes, as well as Sydney-based firm Next have also collapsed, leaving homeowners out of pocket and with unfinished houses.
An industry insider told news.com.au earlier this year that half of Australia’s building companies are on the brink of collapse as they trade insolvent, and it could see thousands of people’s homes impacted in the coming months