Fury as 138 workers at Firstsource call centre in Derry are suspended
Staff slam behaviour of company in dispute
Workers at a call centre where 138 staff have been suspended claimed they have been made scapegoats by company management.
Firstsource - based in Londonderry - was yesterday remaining tight-lipped about the circumstances that has led to the suspensions over the new year period.
Furious workers slammed the behaviour of the company, claiming that some of them only found out they had been suspended after it appeared on their rotas.
A spokesman for the company would only say: "A number of policies and procedures may have been breached by members of staff.
"We cannot comment on the detail of the investigation until it has been completed."
However, in letters sent to the suspended workers the company said that they were being investigated after allegations of fraud and the mis-selling of a client's products.
The dispute is believed to concern how packages at First Source for one of its main customers, the satellite broadcasting giant Sky, were sold.
The workers said they believed that they been acting in accordance with company policy. They said that when Sky complained about the practices, the call centre's workforce was blamed.
Trade union activist Eamonn McCann called on all unions to back the First Source workers. "A fight has to be put up on this issue," he said.
At the weekend a meeting was held between union officials and some affected workers.
The leader of Derry Trades Council, Liam Gallagher, said that the numbers suspended were "at a level previously unheard of".
One man who has been suspended, Daniel Laird, said: "People are distraught and emotions are running high. People have children and questions need answered.
"Morale has been the lowest I've ever seen in a workplace.
"There is a constant pressure of having to do things you're not happy with. They add different procedures and policies, making it difficult for people to achieve their monthly bonuses.
"Workers are finding it difficult to manage their day-to-day work.
"I want management to reconsider these suspensions."
It is believed the company intended to start holding disciplinary meetings yesterday, but were put back for seven days to allow for staff to be accompanied by a union official.
Sky was contacted but no one was available for comment.
"We believe that they are being scapegoated. We don't believe that the problem arose from these workers; (we believe) that the problem arose elsewhere. The way these employees were notified absolutely beggars believe. Some were told by word of mouth. No one has actually received a definitive explanation as to the seriousness of why they're being suspended.
Liam Gallagher, Derry Trades Council
Firstsource: 32,000 are employed by the firm worldwide
By John Mulgrew
First Source Solutions set up shop in Northern Ireland back in 2006.
It operates call centres in Belfast and Londonderry - employing more than 2,000 across its sites.
The company's main Belfast office is based at Linenhall Street, while its Derry call centre is located at the Springtown Business Park.
It's a wholly-owned subsidiary of Indian-owned business process outsourcing company First Source Solutions.
The firm's current chief executive is Rajesh Subramaniam.
That parent company employs more than 32,000 people in 47 centres in India, the US, UK, Argentina and the Philippines.
It also has offices in Cardiff and Middlesbrough, as well as two in the Republic, in Dublin and Cork.
First Source provides business process management to clients in industries including telecoms, media and healthcare.
The company has been a major recipient of Invest NI grants to bring employment to the north west.
The firm's total local employment has risen by nearly 500 in the two years.
It currently provides a service to several technology companies, including broadcaster Sky.
First Source also previously provided contact centre support for a number of mobile carriers, including O2 and Vodafone.