UPDATE: Express Web staff consider legal battle

Web site staff consider legal fightback after liquidation announcement

Staff at the Daily Express newspaper's Web sites are considering legal action after the sites were put into liquidation.

Following a rushed meeting Tuesday, staff said they would seek legal advice on the deal, which has left them with no hope of redundancy payment.

Although the Daily Express Web site was closed on 9 December, staff have posted a statement to the site protesting the liquidation. Editor of Express.co.uk, Michael Streeter, says staff have been left feeling betrayed.

"This bears all the hallmarks of a cynical legal ploy to avoid paying staff any notice or redundancy money," he says. "If this is not illegal, it is certainly immoral. We are consulting with lawyers to see whether the deal that Seymour Pierce and Northern & Shell have done is within the law."

The statement claims that staff will not receive salaries due on 15 January and will not receive notice payments or redundancy money that they are entitled to under the terms of their employment contracts.

Staff will have to wait with other creditors to see if the sale of the Web sites' assets will leave them any money.

The sites were sold off in November to SP Investment, a subsidiary of financial advisory firm Seymour Pierce for the nominal sum of £1, a few weeks after Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell acquired Express Newspapers. The sale of the Web sites is part of a plan to cut costs in light of the Express' falling circulation. SP Investments had hoped to find a buyer for the Web sites but none came forward.

A spokesman for SP Investment says that it is prepared for any legal challenge. "We have no reservations that we've done everything within the law," he says.

He suggests that staff are victim of the instability that characterises many dot-com companies, despite the fact that many have been with the Express for several years. "The harsh reality is that this is just another dot-com bust," he says.

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