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