A US electronics firm that closed its North-East factories has left the British taxpayer with a second multi-million pound bill.

Union bosses and MPs last night slammed circuit board manufacturer Viasystems, after it emerged that the firm would not have to pay cash owed to 890 workers sacked from its Tyneside plants.

Engineering union Amicus won an industrial tribunal yesterday over £2.5m compensation for workers who were sacked on the spot when the firm went into receivership.

Its US parent company, Viasystems Inc, is still trading. But, because it cut all ties to Viasystems Tyneside just before the North-East operation went under, the US company is not liable for any of its debts.

The cash will come from the Government's National Insurance fund.

It is the second time Viasystems Inc has avoided making payments to workers. The Government also had to pay millions of pounds to cover statutory redundancy claims for the Tyneside workers.

The Department of Trade and Industry is still trying to recover £9m in regional assistance paid to the firm to encourage it to set up in the North-East.

Davie Hall, regional secretary of Amicus, said: "It is a deplorable situation when an international employer can secure Government funding, obliterate a workforce and leave the bill to the taxpayer."

North-East MPs last night called for Viasystems to face up to its obligations.

North Durham MP Kevan Jones said: "I welcome the award made to former employees of Viasystems."

The award from the tribunal is the equivalent of between 85 and 90 days' pay - the sum that workers would have received had Viasystems given notice it was making redundancies.

It works out at about £2,500 for each worker.

The tribunal panel, sitting in Quayside House, Newcastle, said it was baffled by a Viasystems paper trail that led to the Cayman Islands.

The tribunal heard how Viasystems Inc transferred ownership of Viasystems Tyneside to a holding company, the European PCB Group, in the Cayman Islands. This, in turn, mortgaged the firm's assets to a conglomerate of US banks.

When it became apparent that the firm was in trouble, in September 2001, the banks called in receivers KPMG.

The receivers closed the North Tyneside plant on September 21, announcing to 550 staff that they were being made redundant.

A further 340 jobs went days later at its sister plant in South Shields. In both cases, the receivers failed to give notice to the workers and did not consult on redundancies with the unions.

Because the firm had practically no assets when it folded, the Government had to pick up the bill for redundancy payments.

Viasystems Inc was given £12m in Government aid to set up operations on Tyneside and has paid back £3m.

The US bankruptcy court has approved a revised settlement agreement, under which Viasystems Inc will not have to start paying back the remaining £9m until 2008. But it will pay interest on the outstanding sum in the meantime.

Viasystems could not be contacted for comment last night.