Redundancy: Being more than just a number

Phones 4u

On Sunday 14 September 2014, a business story broke on The Telegraph which sent 6,000 people in the UK into a whirlwind of panic, distress and disbelief.

Phones 4u had gone into administration and its employees were facing being out of a job.

Unfortunately, I was one of those 6,000. Based at the company’s head office in the marketing department, I had worked there for just under two years.

That Sunday night was a mass of phone calls, texts and unrest. Walking into the office on the Monday morning and being told that the stories were indeed true, before packing a box and leaving my work home in front of cameras and journalists was…surreal.

Realising I wouldn’t be going back was even more of a shock – delayed and hitting with the force of a sledgehammer.

But what compelled me to write this post was more to do with how everything was handled.

Did the journalist at The Telegraph know that the story they were being fed was leaked and that publishing it would be the first any of the Phones 4u employees would know about it? Probably.

And, as a trained journalist myself, I can only say that I understand why the profession is one that is treated by others with disdain. Yes, I understand the need to break a story, and yes I get it – being first with the news is every writers wet dream.

But honestly, for the most part, to that journalist all I have to say is a sentence filled with expletives.

Much like how I’d address the person at EE who leaked the story – aren’t you big and clever? I’m sure your bonus this year will be well worth it. Good luck when 6,000 former Phones 4u employees contracts run out and they switch from your network…

I know that in the words of The Godfather – ‘it’s not personal, it’s business.’ And yes, I understand that – part of me doesn’t blame them. But really, when you drill down past the corporate side, it is personal.

Stoke-on-Trent, the base for Phones 4u was an exception for that very reason – it’s head office wasn’t in London. It generated jobs for a town that has met a near demise since the fall of the pottery industry, and now we face the same thing again.

It was personal for the 6,000 people who had left work on a Friday thinking it was like any other working day, only to realise it would in fact be their last. Without prior knowledge, without warning.

It was personal for the employees who are husband and wife, couples, relatives – incomes instantly gone.

It was personal because EE and The Telegraph would’ve surely known that nobody other than Phones 4u’s CEO knew what had happened, and that the 6,000 would spend the next week not sleeping and unsure where the future lay as they were turfed out of their jobs without explanation.

Now, we will all come out of this situation better off – but it had to be said that the way in which things went down and how they were subsequently handled by the company, the networks, the competition and the media was pathetic and disrespectful to those who worked there.

We are more than just a number.

– love Stef x

19 thoughts on “Redundancy: Being more than just a number

  1. I do think most of the time tabloid journalists leave their conscience at the office door. I’ve been made redundant 3 times once by a phone call and it was made clear that I wasn’t going to be picking up my stuff. It sucks. So does the economy in this country – thanks to our government. Temping can be good until you find a new job. Good luck x

  2. I felt like mourning when it happened but there’s only one party to blame here, it’s not the Telegraph, it’s not EE or Vodafone…it’s BC partners for paying themselves a £200m dividend last year and then mortgaging the company against their nice little gift to themselves. This put them in the position of asking for money from O2…who took their cap and ran, then Voda who rightly confirmed that they couldn’t pay more than the market value, which left EE in an untenable position. In fact, I was happier that it was reported on the Sunday night…it allowed me to sleep on it and go in prepared Monday morning knowing that I would be job hunting that afternoon, and not just turning up and being sent home with cold news. I only hope that BC partners face legal proceedings from all of their stakeholder and shareholders, that’s the only bit of justice left now after they spectacularly ruined a company that made over £100m profit a year.

    • I’m certainly not placing blame anywhere to do with what happened in terms of the business – I’m neither qualified to do so nor privy to all of the information to write about a topic such as that. This post is more to do with how it felt from my point of view to find out through the media and subsequently how everything has been handled since. I agree in part though, that at least knowing from the Sunday night meant that we went in with some knowledge about what was to come. Let’s hope justice does indeed prevail.

  3. I was one of those 6000 people and it’s hit me really hard, I worked so hard to get where I was earning good money, just moved into a new home which I cannot afford, I’m now being forced to look for jobs with a stating salary of 12000pa and getting rejected from as I’m over qualified, I’m so angry that I’ve got to start over, can’t afford to pay bills how the government think people can live on 72pw is just unbelievable! I’m getting more and more withdrawn from family and friends and feel completely alone. I still just can’t believe I was there and now it’s all gone!

  4. I was a Phones4u Employee. I was on holiday the week before the company went in to administration. That Sunday evening I saw what was the end of my employment all over Facebook. So the first day I was to return to work after my annual leave I was told not to come to work. It was hell on earth. My partner having just changed career paths…. and then finding myself a week later being made redundant. It was the most stressed I had ever been.
    I think it is so selfish of the person who leaked the story, not thinking how this made everyone feel. I will now never feel secure in a place of work always having those thoughts of: ‘will is still have a job tomorrow?’.

  5. Glad you wrote this. However, I’ve no idea how you think we have left ‘better off’. I believe I’m owed around £500 commission. The idea that they don’t pay it is a joke. If I wanted to work for no commission I’d have worked in an industry with no targets. It seems very patronising to receive ‘thanks’ messages on our final payslips. My actual pay would have been nicer!

    • I never said we have left better off – far from it, I can only imagine the outrage you feel from not receiving the money you’d earned. It was more that we will come out of this better off – we will find other jobs and in the majority of cases, I am hopeful that they will be better jobs. From what I’ve seen since it all happened, other businesses are aware of the hard work and the skills we all had. I agree about the payslips, however, I never received one myself!

  6. I’m so sorry to all of you that were made redundant. I really hope life settles for you all again soon. Such a horrible way to find out.

  7. I thought there was a major problem with employees and managers allowing fraudulent connections to go through, by ripping off the general public. I do not know if this is correct again speculation. If it was true then the company as a whole needs to hang its head in shame! I do feel for employees that have been made redundant but your a lucky person that can go through life never to be made redundant, its life.

    • I can’t comment on whether this is true or not, I’m not privy to the ins and outs of how the business conducted itself. I worked in head office as a writer. However, to comment as you have is slightly out of order, tarring 6000 people with the same brush for the actions of those minor few if your speculation is fact. The company as a whole certainly shouldn’t hang its head in shame as that would imply that I and my colleagues have to, and we all worked honestly without ripping anybody off, thank you. I also wasn’t writing as though redundancy has never occurred before, but more to do with how everything was handled. I’m very aware of how often people go through this kind of thing.

  8. Hi Stef, this was a well written piece and i agree with the things you have said both in the article and replies to comments. My daughter worked there and fortunately had applied for another job shortly before the announcement, had an interview a few days after and started her new job the following monday. She is a very lucky young woman and i hope her and your former colleagues find new employment soon.

    • Hi Morgan, thank you for your lovely words. That is wonderful news about your daughter – congratulations to her, I’m sure she will have a fantastic career post-Phones 4u. I think we will all manage to land on our feet (well, I certainly hope so) as we deserve to do so. Thank you for reading and for commenting x

  9. Stef. Couldn’t agree more about your sentiments about the head office remaining in Stoke-on-Trent that was in many ways a regeneration of the six towns so heavily dependent on mining and the pot banks. As somebody born there, an ex-technology journalist and somebody in the mobile industry I feel your pain. I hope you land on your feet with a new opportunity.

  10. Pingback: Cocktails @ The Alchemist, Manchester | She Wears High Heels UK Lifestyle Blog

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