End of the line for TalkTalk workers


AS THE Final Countdownblared around the call centre which has been home to hundreds of employees for more than a decade, staff at TalkTalk in Waterford gathered in huddles, chatting, reminiscing and looking towards an uncertain future.

Just 30 days after they were given the news by senior management that the support centre was to be closed down with the loss of 575 jobs, employees turned up for work at TalkTalk for the last time yesterday.

There was laughter at the good times, as those remaining gathered after lunch for speeches and more than a few tears.

“It’s hard now but it will probably only sink in to people on Monday when they’ve nothing to do,” sales and retention manager Alan Kavanagh said.

“Today we’re just going through the memories and experiences of what’s been going on. It’s been a long 30 days and people are just accepting it now.”

As well as the memories, what the staff have been left with is a redundancy package worth 4½ weeks’ salary per year of service along with a one-off €1,600 payment and an extra €500 for team leaders.

While the mood was mostly one of resignation, a month after the bad news, there was also the odd flash of anger as staff gathered belongings and their thoughts.

“The way we were treated was horrendous,” one worker said. “The [redundancy] negotiations went on by conference call. We were fired over the phone. They hadn’t even the decency to come over and look us in the eye and speak to us.”

There was no appearance at the departures by UK management. That’s the way the workers wanted it, according to Trevor Prendergast. “There were rumours that our CEO, Dido Harding, was going to come over this week but the company decided against it. But the damage is done, what’s the point?”

Last month, in the days following the closure announcement, Mr Prendergast told reporters he voted Fine Gael in the election and was prepared to give them a chance to help the region. But as he left TalkTalk he was more damning.

“Nothing,” was his assessment of what the Government had done. “They haven’t done anything yet. I thought the college [Waterford Institute of Technology] might get university status but, unfortunately, there’s no sign of that. What made me laugh was that the first week, every politician was here but, after that, there was nothing from them.”

All said there was little word in recent days about the “southeast employment forum” announced by Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton and IDA bosses when they visited Waterford last month.

“The post office will make a fortune out of us because we’ll be buying licences so we can walk our dogs to kill the time,” said Séamus Purcell, before recalling another major employer which shut its doors in 2009, before reopening in much-reduced form last year.

“I was in Waterford Crystal as well and a lot of them in Waterford Crystal are still walking their dogs. The city hasn’t recovered yet and we’re joining them now.”