PFI CEO Darren McMurray did not attend hearing

Employment tribunal finds in favour of former Futurama directors

McMurray: leading the improvement program being delivered by the new SLT
McMurray submitted a blank document to the tribunal

Five former employees of PFI Group subsidiary Futurama have been awarded nearly £120,000 in total after a judge found they had been unfairly or wrongfully dismissed.

Futurama went into administration in May. Prior to that parent Rymack Sign Solutions, which trades as PFI Group, had made a big writedown related to the business and had ousted the senior management team.

The five former employees: CEO Marc Edwards, finance director William [Jo] Evans, commercial director David Sharp, operations and installation director David Hurley, and acting managing director Terence Elrick were summarily dismissed on 23 February on the claimed grounds of gross misconduct.

However, at a hearing last month at Leeds Employment Tribunal before Employment Judge Deeley, the judge found that the respondent did not provide any evidence of any investigation undertaken into the claimants’ alleged gross misconduct.

The judge also stated that Futurama director and PFI Group CEO Darren McMurray had requested the hearing be postponed, but this was refused. McMurray’s request for an extension for submissions to the tribunal was granted and set at 4pm on 9 October, the day prior to the hearing.

In the written reasons for her findings, the judge said: “Mr McMurray did not attend today’s hearing. He emailed a document to the Tribunal on 9 October 2023, but that document was blank (save for a heading).

“The Tribunal emailed and telephoned Mr McMurray, who then emailed a further half-page document to the Tribunal after judgment had been reached. Mr McMurray’s document was therefore not considered before the Tribunal reached its judgment.”

The five were awarded unpaid wages, unpaid expenses, accrued holiday pay, notice pay, and a basic award award for unfair dismissal (except for Elrick who had less than two years’ service).

The total came to just under £119,000. The unfair dismissal award for Sharp will be confirmed in a separate judgment.

The full judgment can be downloaded here.

Because Futurama is in administration the claims will be handled by the Redundancy Payments Service.

Posting on LinkedIn, Edwards said the whole saga had been “bittersweet” and he would have preferred it if Futurama had continued to trade.

He said there had been a viable option to save the Futurama business via an MBO, but this had been rejected by McMurray and his associates who chose to go down the administration route instead.

Edwards is now managing director at Benchmark Fabrications in Letchworth, and plans to launch a new offshoot, AML-Benchmark, later this month.

Printweek has approached McMurray for comment.

Separately, Printweek can also reveal that notices of intention to appoint administrators were filed yesterday (9 November), for PFI Group companies Cestrian Imaging Ltd and Gardners NW Ltd.

Three of the group's sign businesses were placed into administration at the end of last week