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News : New Call Centre Lays Off More Than 50% of its Workforce
Dec 22, 2014 -- A call centre company that opened in a blaze of publicity in October and received backing from Invest NI, laid off six members of staff, more than 50 per cent of its workforce, last week.
Lakeland Trading Solutions Ltd, operating out of Erne House in the Killyhevlin Industrial Estate, initially employed 11 members of staff with a view to growing this to 49 next year.
Speaking at the official launch, Enniskillen Chartered Accountant, Matthew Martin had pointed to an "abundance of talent" in insurance sales in Fermanagh as the main reason for deciding to locate the company in the town.
But his business partner, Lee Hanford confirmed on Tuesday this week that only four staff members now remained after employees were informed at the close of play last Thursday that they were no longer required.
The father of one of the staff members has told the Impartial Reporter his 30-year-old daughter was "devastated" to learn that her contract had been terminated.
"The staff have been treated so shabbily," he told this newspaper.
"They were told that their jobs were gone. "She is devastated but she smelled a rat from the start.
"She had worked for BT before and she felt the training she got for this job was very basic -- it didn’t seem right to her.
"The day before she was due to start working there she got a text to say ‘please don’t start tomorrow, we have no computers’ -- in a call centre!"
During the company’s launch Mr. Martin said Lakeland Trading Solutions Ltd was giving unemployed people "a chance at a career". 53 people applied for these jobs," he had said at the time, "There’s so many people in Enniskillen who can sell and can offer something."
"There’s an abundance of talent in Enniskillen; people who are able and who actually have insurance and call centre experience.
"I thought to myself that there must be an opportunity to reverse that trend and allow people to step into something else while using their skill sets...
"There’s a massive amount of people who are crying out for opportunities and, without sounding cheesy, I’m here to bring that opportunity."
But this week business partner Mr. Hanford said: "I know it sounds quite cruel but this is a sales industry and that is commerce.
"Everyone was on a probation period."
The company’s core business is to sell insurance.
According to Mr. Hanford, when the employees were unable to deliver on this, the business diversified into providing quotes on energy switching companies.
"We wanted to give them a second chance," he explained. "We tried a number of contracts with them. But it takes a special person to be able to sell. We gave them an easier product to sell and it just wasn’t working out.
"We diversified into energy but we were throwing good money at it and it just wasn’t sustainable. So we have gone back to our core business and we will drive that forward now. We gave them wider support, too. We brought over an experienced call centre manager to give them that extra support."
"However at some point you have got to be cruel to be kind for the overall benefit of the business. We regret particularly at this time of year letting people go but unfortunately for the business to be sustainable some harsh decisions had to be made. They have been given their pay, plus notice, plus any annual leave they were due."
Mr. Hanford explained that of the remaining four staff, one local man had been promoted to a managerial role.
"We are making sure we reward those who do well. This is a small business and we have to make difficult decisions.
"They were given every opportunity and we kept the best and promoted a local guy. We will recruit again in the new year to replace what we had to let go."
Mr. Hanford said he remained confident that the company could still grow to a staff structure of 49 next year.
"In April we will proceed with the next tranche of employment. The insurance is going well," he added.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, December 23, 2014