Future uncertain for Falkirk shopping centre's furloughed security staff and cleaners

Workers currently on furlough from Callendar Square Shopping Centre now fear for their future after learning management advertised for “temporary staff” to fill their posts.

By James Trimble
Thursday, 16th July 2020, 11:06 am
Updated Thursday, 16th July 2020, 1:12 pm

The centre, which re-opened to shoppers this week after months of lockdown, posted an ad on its Opportunities in Callendar Square Facebook page yesterday.

It stated: “We are looking for temporary staff to join our team in the centre, minimum one month duration, possibly longer and it's for an immediate start. 2 x cleaners, 32 hours per week, 2 x security staff, 32 hours per week."

The existing security and cleaning staff, employed by a firm called Eyekon, are reportedly on furlough for another month.

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Callendar Square Shopping Centre has re-opened but not all staff returned to work and now security and cleaning jobs have been advertised online

It was claimed the owners of the centre tried to force Eyekon staff to change their contracts of employment and make their services “in-house”.

A source said: “Their intention was to have us back into work last Wednesday, July 8, to get the centre ready to reopen yesterday on July 13, despite the fact we were furloughed until July 15.

“The furlough has now been extended to August 15 by our actual employer due to the lack of communication from the centre owners and their attempts to force us to work unsafely.

"We were only contacted initially by letter, some received it quicker than others but no earlier than July 4.”

Karim Virani, director of Callender Square owners Cygnet Properties and Leisure, said the shopping centre had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, losing tenants and found businesses would not pay their rents.

He added: “Even before this, our occupancy had declined. At present, we do not know whether the Council’s One-Stop Shop will be opening, and Xercise4Less is in the same position.

“We wrote to most of the security and cleaning staff on July 2 asking them to return to work on various dates and to be in touch with us and discuss their availability. They did not agree to come in.

“Historically, the cleaning and security staff for the centre had been engaged via Eyekon and the extra layer of cost was proving unsustainable. We had told the contractor months ago we need to take the staff in-house as the centre’s income was struggling to match its overheads.

"In relation to asking staff to come back to work, the announcement shopping centres could re-open was only made on Thursday last week – so there was very little time to make ourselves ready.

“It was our intention to re-engage the staff that were with the centre. We remain loyal to them and we want to continue working with them. But, as we must have the centre continue to operate safely and remain open for the benefit of our tenants, we must engage temporary staff.

“The staff are presently not coming in despite our requests, so we are forced to seek alternative short term arrangements. There is little else to say.

There had been a suggestion some of the security staff had not been paid since December.

Mr Virani said: “The staff have all been paid. The suggestion that our workers are out of pocket is absurd, and it is absolutely unfounded to say that they have not been paid since December. In the light of the turmoil which we are facing, Eyekon had agreed to waive some of its charges and it is now reneging on that. The sums involved are small.

“We re-iterate the only reason for looking for alternative staff is that our own staff are either not willing to come back to work (perhaps because of the furlough package) or they are being blocked to do so by the contractor that is reluctant to give up an income stream.”

Mr Virani also admitted he was concerned about the fate of the town centre.

“Callendar Square is trying to save money, not to treat staff unfairly. We are struggling because the town centre does not have the footfall to sustain the present scale of retail space.

“Falkirk Council has been talking about an intervention, placing some kind of new HQ and Arts complex in the town centre for years, and we feel that now is the time for urgent action.

“The High Street needs investment and the people involved need a confidence boost.”