Bid to save Endeavour laundry unlikely as disability services unit snapped up

HOPEFUL: Cessnock man Eric Stanley wants to save the Endeavour laundry. Picture: Stephen Bisset

HOPEFUL: Cessnock man Eric Stanley wants to save the Endeavour laundry. Picture: Stephen Bisset

An eleventh-hour bid to save Endeavour Industries’ (EGA) laundry, packing and cleaning services looks likely to fail as administrators move ahead with the November 9 closure date.

The disability services organisation, which was founded in Cessnock in 1968, went into voluntary administration in July, leaving 131 staff facing an uncertain future.

As administrators Rapsey Griffiths Insolvency and Advisory (RGIA) worked to wrap up the company, no suitable buyer could be found for its Social Enterprise Business Units – the Cessnock laundry, Weston packaging and the property care and maintenance division.

Cessnock man Eric Stanley learned of the closure when he went to the linen service to get his wife a job back in October.

The former Sydney man, who had previously been the director of two not-for-profit organisations decided he wanted to help.

“When they told me it was closing, I couldn't believe it,” Mr Stanley said.

“My wife and I have always been very civic-minded so I want to do something about preserving the 131 jobs.”

Mr Stanley’s proposal was to form a charity to re-start the linen service if a suitable buyer for the site could be found before it goes to auction on November 29.

It was also proposed to possibly re-commence operations of the packaging service and property and maintenance division under the plan as well as generating pledges from the community to raise initial working capital to get the business back in its feet.

However, RGIA director Mitchell Griffiths said that while the proposal had been considered by administrators, it was decided that it would take too long to get such a plan up and running.

The proposal was assessed and unfortunately it is not viable in terms of its financing or timeframe,” Mr Griffiths said.

“The Administrator’s priority has always been and continues to be the wellbeing of the EGA community, primarily its clients and staff.

“In relation to the Social Enterprise business units, the main concern now is to minimise the stress for affected staff by working with key stakeholders and agencies to help find alternative employment; and organising the payment of entitlements as soon as possible.”

Despite the response from administrators, Mr Stanley said he was forging ahead with his proposal.

There has been a glimmer of good news, however with the announcement on Friday that Sydney-based organisation Sunnyfield Disability Services had acquired EGA’s Disability Services Unit, which offers NDIS and employment support.

“We’re pleased to bring this positive news amidst what has been a difficult time for so many people involved with EGA,” Sunnyfield CEO Caroline Cuddihy said.

The main concern now is to minimise the stress for affected staff by working with key stakeholders and agencies to help find alternative employment; and organising the payment of entitlements as soon as possible.

Mitchell Griffiths - RGIA

“We respect that EGA staff have created positive differences in the lives of people with disability within their communities and we’re proud to have an opportunity to carry that tradition forward.

“We extend a very warm welcome to EGA staff, clients, families and carers and look forward to strengthening and adding value to the important services provided.”

Ms Cuddihy added the acquisition was a strong strategic fit for its operations in the Central Coast and New England and other NSW/ACT regions.

The organisation is currently seeking approval from the Fair Work Commission to cease the current EGA enterprise agreement, meaning that staff will work under the standard award, which transitioning staff have already voted in favour of.

The future of the 13 residents who live in the Endeavour Villas in King Street, Cessnock, is still in doubt however, after the site failed to reach an undisclosed reserve when the property went to auction in October.

The villas are now being marketed for sale through Knight Frank Real Estate.