Industry rallies around ex-Service Graphics staff

By Richard Stuart-Turner, Thursday 24 January 2019

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Organisations from across the industry have reached out to offer support and job opportunities to the staff at Service Graphics’ Chessington and Nottingham sites who lost their jobs after the business went into administration last week.

service-graphics-chessington

156 staff worked at Chessington. Image: Google Maps

While Paragon Group acquired the company’s Skelmersdale and Glasgow operations in a pre-pack deal concluded last Friday (18 January), a spokesman for the administrator Duff & Phelps told PrintWeek yesterday afternoon that there had been “no further update” regarding the Chessington and Nottingham sites.

He added that, as far as he was aware, all of the employees at these sites had now left the business.

156 employees worked at the Chessington head office, with five more based at the Nottingham sales office. Administrators informed staff still on site at Chessington of the situation late on Friday afternoon but said many others could not be reached at that time.

The administrators told PrintWeek: “By the time we had addressed the staff at the Chessington site in person, we were unable to reach those both in Nottingham or those who had been on early shifts that day or those members of staff not on site at the time, for example those on holiday.

“All staff have now been contacted and are now aware of the redundancy process and their statutory rights.”

Over the past few days there has been a groundswell of support building for the affected workers from across the industry.

Vism founder Dan Tyler started a thread on LinkedIn earlier this week to signpost businesses that currently have job opportunities and vacancies available that they would like to discuss with ex-Service Graphics staff.

He has been regularly updating the thread as more people have come forward and nearly 40 people have already added their names to the list.

The former estimating manager at the Chessington site, Graham Douce, has also started a LinkedIn group called ‘Back Chessington SG staff in the search for work’, enabling former staff and businesses with job opportunities to connect with each other. The group had 144 members at the time of writing.

Tyler told PrintWeek: “I’ve been talking to so many people about this. It’s such a difficult time and some of the employees won’t be on LinkedIn but there’s a lot of posts flying around with numerous job opportunities for them.

“I was previously a recruiter for six years up until I started Vism last year and Service Graphics was my first ever customer. I had recruited quite a few of the people that were working in Chessington, so I knew there were some incredibly talented people in there.”

He added: “I’ve been adding to the LinkedIn post every day and people have been contacting me directly and sending links to other jobs. There are tons of businesses across London and further afield that, if they can make something work, seem to be very willing to do so.

“What’s really enlightening for me is that there are Service Graphics people that are going to interviews and are then posting in the group to say that there are opportunities at that place. They don’t even seem to be giving a second thought to the fact that they might be losing an opportunity themselves by putting it in front of a former colleague.”

Meanwhile, The Printing Charity’s chief executive Neil Lovell highlighted the support that the charity can offer to affected staff.

He told PrintWeek: “Usually the best route is for people to look on our website and see how they want to contact us. The phone number is on the website but not everybody wants to phone. They can also send an email to support@theprintingcharity.org.uk.”

He added that to access support, affected workers will generally need to have worked in the industry for at least three years, though this does not necessarily have to have been consecutively or for the same employer.

“But if they know that this is going to be a change in their situation and they think they’re going to struggle either financially, from a practical perspective, or emotionally, then do contact us and we’ll see what we can do,” he said.

“We can talk to them about managing financial challenges to maybe making an application to us for financial support and those sorts of things. And if someone is just wanting to tell us about things that they may need help with in the future, then that’s fine as well.”

Duff & Phelps instigated a fast-track sale of Service Graphics last week.

The business was understood to be facing cashflow issues. Yet just last month the firm’s new managing director Alex Penner spoke of fresh investment being underway at the company, with plans in place to “realise its full potential

In March 2018 Service Graphics was acquired from St Ives alongside SP Group by Landry Kouakou’s investment vehicle SelmerBridge. He put SP Group into administration four months later, leaving creditors owed millions of pounds.

Kouakou’s financial partners are Irish firm Sitara Finance and “alternative credit” specialist Secured Corporate Finance, based in London.

In its most recent accounts, for the year to 31 July 2017, Service Graphics had sales of £40.5m and made an operating profit of £963,000.

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