Independent Insurance executives ensured their cronies avoided redundancy, while other highly qualified and experienced staff lost their jobs, claim ex-Independent staff.

But liquidator Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (PWC) says there was no preferential treatment for executives.

The disagreement emerged at a meeting of former Independent staff and PWC in Manchester this week.

The claim was made in a series of questions, formulated at a meeting of 40 ex-staff in Manchester two weeks ago. These were presented to PWC's Nigel Rackham by former Cheadle commercial underwriter Phil Angus, Leeds underwriting manager David Kelly and business consultancy head Paul Lee.

PWC's answers were distributed to a second meeting of staff in Manchester on Tuesday (October 2).

Angus said staff were satisfied with some answers, but rejected PWC's claim that senior Independent managers selected staff for redundancy based on criteria set by PWC.

The criteria were length of service, appraisal grade and flexibility [number of departments worked in].

Angus said: “The criteria wasn't stuck to. I know people who've been there ten years, had excellent appraisal grades and have worked in several departments. They fit the criteria like a glove, but they weren't kept on.”

A PWC spokeswoman said the liquidators were aware of rumours of cronyism. “If someone has a substantiated allegation, they should bring it to our attention, but we can't comment on speculation,” she said.

Angus said staff were also critical of PWC's claim that the same “management pyramid” had been maintained at the company after its collapse.

He said too many highly-paid managers had been kept on at the expense of other employees. “It may be a pyramid, but it's upside down,” he said.

Angus said ex-staff were angry that remaining Independent staff were to receive a £1,000 retention bonus without any retention clause attached. “What's the point of a retainer if the staff could leave one day after receiving it?” he said.

Rackham promised to stay in contact with Angus, Kelly and Lee and answer any further questions raised at Tuesday's meeting.

Redundant staff have already begun to take PWC to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.

Angus said if the case was successful, ex-staff would also make claims against Independent's auditors KPMG, actuary Watson Wyatt and former chief executive Michael Bright.