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Joinery's collapse leaves workers, homeowners in a bind

Date

Christopher Knaus

Michael Richer sits outside his house in Latham with his daughter Kylie Richer and granddaughter Sarah Watson. On Monday he lost his job at Douglas Quality Joinery.

Michael Richer sits outside his house in Latham with his daughter Kylie Richer and granddaughter Sarah Watson. On Monday he lost his job at Douglas Quality Joinery. Photo: Jay Cronan

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The ACT's biggest joinery company has collapsed, leaving more than 30 workers without jobs and dozens of Canberra families with half-finished work in the lead-up to Christmas.

On Friday, administrators took over Douglas Quality Joinery, a business specialising in domestic kitchens and commercial fit-outs, and took just three days to decide it could not be saved.

Thirty-three workers and nine subcontractors were told they had lost their jobs at a meeting at the company's Hume office about 11am yesterday. The staff were told to collect their gear and leave.

The company, which is reported to have an annual turnover of $6 million, was brought to its knees after delays and cost blowouts on three large-scale projects at Questacon, the Aurora Apartments in Kingston, and the Bellerive Apartments in Lyons.

The collapse could cost 25 home owners their deposits and leave them with unfinished renovations just over a month before Christmas. It will also hurt many other small businesses and building companies that had contracts with Douglas Joinery.

But it's the company's employees who are likely to be hit the hardest.

Michael Richer, who has worked for the company for six years and eight months, was still reeling from the sudden collapse at his home in Latham yesterday.

Mr Richer told The Canberra Times he would struggle to look after his family, including his 24-year-old daughter Kylie Richer who is the single mother of one-year-old Sarah Watson.

''What they've done is morally wrong … it made me feel absolutely sick,'' Mr Richer said. ''But I'm thinking more of the young guys, the guys who have got three-month-old babies, what happens to them over Christmas?'' he said.

''The guys that live day to day, they're the ones that I feel for.''

The 48-year-old says he will now be forced to drive to Sydney to work with a former employer, taking him away from his family from Sunday to Friday every week .

''It pays the bills and at the end of the day, I don't want to lose the house over it, so if I've got to do it to keep the house, I'll do it,'' he said.

RSM Bird Cameron has taken control of the company and administrator Frank Lo Pilato said it was likely that the company would be liquidated.

The company's contracts with each customer, including residential customers, will be assessed individually, and those that are still deemed profitable will go ahead.

Mr Lo Pilato said the workers were likely to receive their entitlements under the federal government's general employee entitlements and redundancy scheme.

''We've got to call a meeting of creditors, but at the moment we've ceased trading and the outlook is not looking very promising,'' he said.

Mr Richer said the company had failed to pay some of its sub-contractors since April.

The company's owners were contacted but declined to comment yesterday.

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