Unfair treatment at Curator’s House

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From: A very angry parent

By e-mail

I read with interest the story on May 5 regarding the Curator’s House Cafe in the Botanical Gardens. There have been several articles recently discussing the closure in November 2010, but not one has mentioned the disgusting way the 12 young members of staff have been treated.

In November the staff naively thought, as did the Friends of the Botanical Gardens, they would be working for a new business owner the week after the previous business owner’s lease had expired, due to the council not renewing it.

Some of these staff had worked there for seven years since leaving school, They were given no information from ANY party and, after some weeks had lapsed without any of them receiving any pay, they all unexpectedly received their P45s through the post two weeks before Christmas, without receiving any formal notice or redundancy, or any communication.

The council had a responsibility for these young people but stated their hands were tied and they were the innocent party.

If the council had renewed the lease of Mr Donaldson, who had built the business up from nothing, instead of accepting the highest tender from someone who has no experience of hospitality or catering, then the cafe would still be open.

This is a case of greed, the council wanting more money for the lease, but unfortunately for them it has backfired on them. Any new business owner will now have to find new staff .

Your article also states that the property has now been cleared out. What has happened to all the personal items belonging to the staff? They were not allowed in to clear their property, which included chefs’ knives, whites, items of clothing etc, which they have had to replace.

They did not qualify for any financial help until the New Year, by which time some of them had not been able to pay their rent and had to give up their accommodation.

Are the council going to compensate them for removing the staff’s personal belongings without informing them? I somehow think not!

As the staff were advised, ‘you won’t win anything by going against the council’.

Sheffield council should be held responsible for the misery they have caused to all concerned.

l Paul Billington, Director of Culture and Environment at Sheffield City Council, said: “As the council has stated recently, we are very disappointed that the Curator’s House Restaurant and Cafe in the Botanical Gardens remains closed and we are now further accelerating our efforts to have the lease completed so that the business can reopen.

“We fully understand the position that the former employees have found themselves in. However, it is important to note that these staff have never been the employees of the council. They were all employed by the Botanical Catering Limited and therefore the council has not been in a position to intervene.

“The council’s contract with the Botanical Catering Limited reached the end of its fixed term. The resulting decision to award the tender to a new operator/provider was made following a thorough, open and detailed tender process which was designed to meet the council’s obligation to ensure best value for the people of Sheffield.

As is normal in these situations, price was only one of a number of factors that were taken in to account.”