Troubled firm settles staff's salary claims

Vela Diagnostics has new investor, emerges from judicial management and pays off debts

Half a year after they found out their employer could not pay them, the staff of a molecular diagnostics firm have received their owed salaries.

Vela Diagnostics, which used to employ about 210 staff worldwide, had come under interim judicial management on Feb 10.

It became insolvent after its primary investor pulled out at the end of last year. The Straits Times reported on March 21 that its staff had learnt they could not be paid until the firm secured new funding from investors.

Vela emerged from judicial management on Monday, after it signed an agreement in July with new Chinese investor Luye Group.

Chief executive Michael Tillmann said that Vela had settled its debts and the salary claims of all its employees. "We feel sorry for all the inconveniences caused to our staff and their families," he told The Straits Times.

REASSURED OF SOLUTION

Although I was concerned about not being paid, we were reassured constantly by the CEO and management that they would do their utmost to work out a solution.

MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER ESTHER CHEW, who remained with Vela. She said that from mid-February to mid-May, staff were not required to report to office and their notice period, if they wanted to leave, was waived.

Judicial management is a corporate restructuring regime meant to give an insolvent firm breathing space. If the court decides there is a reasonable probability of rehabilitating the firm - which would better serve its creditors' interests than winding it up - a judicial manager is appointed to manage the company's affairs.

Although the firm's judicial managers from Deloitte & Touche did not have to let anybody go to revive it, only about 80 of Vela's original global workforce remained by May.

One former employee said he quit in April to start a new job because he could not afford to keep waiting for his salary to come in. The former laboratory staff member, who declined to be named, said: "I know some colleagues were struggling because they had housing loans and so on."

He said the salary he was owed - about $13,000 - showed up in his bank account at the end of last month.

Marketing communications manager Esther Chew, who has remained with Vela, said that from mid-February to mid-May, staff were not required to report to office and their notice period, if they wanted to leave, was waived. She said: "Although I was concerned about not being paid, we were reassured constantly by the CEO and management that they would do their utmost to work out a solution."

She said that some of her former colleagues are rejoining Vela, which expects to have a staff strength of about 120 by the year end.

Vela was founded here by Mr Tillmann in 2011. It comprises three entities - Vela Holdings, research arm Vela Research, and manufacturing arm Vela Operations - and subsidiaries in Germany, the United States and Australia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2015, with the headline 'Troubled firm settles staff's salary claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe