Page last updated at 19:14 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 20:14 UK

Jobs blow for Garland North East call centre staff

Garlands' Hartlepool office
Garlands was one of the Tees Valley's largest private employers

More than 1,000 employees working for a North East call centre have been made redundant.

Garland Call Centres, based at Hartlepool Marina, Middlesbrough and South Shields, announced it had gone into administration on Monday.

The centre employed 1,158 people - 178 based in South Shields, 621 in Hartlepool and 359 in Middlesbrough.

Administrators said the company was unable to support trading after the "termination of key contracts".

'Very challenging'

A total of 1,088 staff were expected to lose their jobs.

The announcement was made to staff on Monday at 1400 BST over the in-house radio system by chief executive Chey Garland. They were told the doors would be closing at 1500 BST.

A statement from administrators PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) said one contract had been retained by Garlands.

It said a small number of staff, believed to be about 70 employees, would continue to work for that contract and assist with the closure of the business.

Nick Reed, director and joint administrator at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said: "Garlands Call Centres has experienced very challenging trading conditions and more recently received notice from a number of key clients of their intention to move their customer service work.

"We had no inkling beforehand. We had no inkling everything had gone"
Former Garlands employee

"The Garlands' board were unable to identify a viable way forward given the significant deterioration in contract work and high infrastructure costs.

"As such, they were left with no option than to appoint administrators."

Garlands, which supplied work to a number of telecoms companies, was founded by Chey Garland, who began the business from her Middlesbrough home as a debt collection firm in 1981.

A statement from Garlands said: "The appointment of an administrator follows decisions by a number of Garlands' largest clients to move their outsourced customer service activity to other centres, many in low wage countries including Asia and Africa."

It added that in 2008 the company employee number had grown to around 3,000 but by 2009 it had lost much of its work for its large broadband and mobile operator clients.

By 2010, it said it was left with contracted work for only 1,500 employees.

MP Stuart Bell said it was another "body blow" to the area after the partial mothballing of the Corus plant in Redcar in which 1,600 workers lost their jobs.

He said: "It is very sad news for Chey Garland and the company and for the workers who will be losing their jobs."

'Great workforce'

Speaking to BBC Tees one former Garlands worker said the announcement had come "out of the blue".

He said: "We had no inkling beforehand. We had no inkling everything had gone.

"It is quite gutting. It has not really sunk in properly yet. I haven't been in the department that long but I have made some good friends and it is quite heart-wrenching to leave it all."

Another former employee said: "There's people there that have worked there a lot longer than I have.

"Some are husbands and wives - so that is both of them out of a job. And it just makes you think, what are they going to do?"

Chey Garland
Chief executive Chey Garland said she was "devastated"

Chief executive, Chey Garland paid tribute to her staff and said she was "devastated" by the course of events.

She said: "We had a great workforce.

"The fact that we had grown to the size we had, which was about 3,000 people and about a £50m turnover in 2007/08, we would never have been able to do that without that commitment, dedication and quality of work produced."

She added: "I am absolutely devastated by the course of events. The North East is losing a world-class contact centre business - one that took 30 years of hard work to build and just 18 months of economic recession to destroy.

"My heart goes out to all the people who have worked so hard to make Garlands a success and who will now lose their jobs and face hardship through no fault of their own.

"The management has fought tooth and nail to save the company and the support we've received from our staff and business advisors has been truly outstanding."

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