Staff claim they weren't paid at collapsed call centre which moved to Newcastle for Geordie accent

Chronicle Live 1 month ago

A call centre which claimed to be drawn to Newcastle for the Geordie accent has closed suddenly, leaving staff still chasing their wages.

Staff at Ago Outsourcing arrived for work on September 13, to be told they'd be made redundant at the end of their shifts.

Liquidators say they've been called in to dismantle Lakemere Global Holdings Limited, the firm which ran the originally Glasgow-based firm's Newcastle operation, but say they "can't comment" on whether staff will get the cash they say they're owned.

Just a year before, in September 2018, the firm had claimed it would bring 240 jobs to the area, opening with an initial intake of 80 staff but saying they'd soon be looking for more.

By Feburary, the firm said 100 people were employed in its centre in Newburn Riverside, Newcastle, but was advertising another 65 permanent roles.

At the time, chief operations officer Stephen Rafferty said the Geordie accent had been one of the big draws which brought his company to the city.

Business partner Kris McGenily said the business was aiming to "create a real long-term sustainable team" in "a call centre business which is better than any other".

Kris McGenily (Chief Executive Officer) and Stephen Rafferty (Chief Operation Officer) at Ago Outsourcing

But for the Geordies actually working at the call centre, the reality didn't live up to this attractive picture.

One former employee, who didn't wish to be named, said she'd joined the business in March, and things seemed normal, until her first pay day, when she woke up to find the expected cash hadn't come through. The company blamed a payroll issue, but when money did come through, she claimed commission would be missing and wages weren't properly documented.

Later, she claims, staff found themselves banned from the building's canteen, and were forced to heat food for their lunches in microwaves kept on the call room floor. She says staff who managed the building told her this was because of issues with rent not being paid.

She said: "I never received a payslip for the full six months I worked there, everyone always seemed to be just getting up and walking out...

"Everyone in there knew what was expected on pay day and we always had to write down what we were owed, what we were missing - it was just a constant cycle of where things were wrong."

She said she had not received the last of her wages, causing her to fall behind on bills and car payments. She'd been working over time at the firm to try and clear some debts, but says if she had at least been warned her job was at risk she could instead have focused on finding other work.

She added: " [It] has been emotionally exhausting as I didn’t know where the money was going to come from for my next bills as I was trying to pay the currents month's bills as well. It has affected my credit score due to missing payments, which is something that can’t be fixed."

She said her mental health has "hit rock bottom" as she worries about where money will come from.

A Facebook group formed of other people who claim to be owed wages by the company, both in the closed Newcastle office and in the branch in East Kilbride, Glasgow, contains similar stories, with several people still employed in Glasgow saying they have also not received their expected pay.

A spokesperson for liquidators Begbies Traynor said: "Begbies Traynor was approached by the director and shareholder of Lakemere Global Holdings Limited to liquidate the company following pressure on the company from creditors.

"We were appointed as liquidators on the 21st October. We understand there are a number of employees who may potentially have claims for unpaid wages against the company and we are dealing with those claims and enquiries by way of a series of meetings with employees in Newcastle and Glasgow.

"We are unable to comment on whether these claims will be paid at this time."

Chronicle Live has attempted to contact Ago Outsourcing directly but has had no response. However, speaking to the Daily Record, in Glasgow, Kris McGenily, said he could not offer an official comment on the matter, but added: “I have limited information bearing in mind the business who the staff in Newcastle were employed by wasn’t owned by me or Stephen Rafferty.

“It’s now in the hands of administrators and they have sent letters to all staff advising next steps for payment claims etc.”


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