Talk Talk staff put on a brave face as time runs out on their final shift
THEY ate cake, exchanged keepsakes, snapped photographs and hugged each other as the final moments in work neared.
Talk Talk staff were only given 30 days' notice before the British telecoms firm pulled the plug in Waterford.
But there was no sign of bitterness as the 575 workers put on a brave face and enjoyed each other's company for their final shift yesterday.
There were a few tears but mostly the "Friday feeling" was kicking in as the redundant workers vowed to "get on with it".
One employee even took the opportunity to say "hi mum" on a sign she held up for the camera.
The message "07 October 2011 Friday 2.30pm -- Holidays for Everyone" was projected on to a computer screen which counted down their Talk Talk careers.
Only a small fraction -- or fewer than 100 of the 575 workforce -- will walk into jobs immediately or have offers in the pipeline. The majority of the laid-off call centre staff will join the lengthening dole queue in Waterford city.
One man who found employment said he was "one of the lucky ones" yesterday as he cleared his desk in preparation for a daily commute from Waterford to Kilkenny from next Monday.
Dad of an 11-month-old baby, Alan Butler said he was relieved to be starting a new job with Bank of Ireland in Loughboy in Kilkenny from next week. "It takes the pressure off," he said as he finished his final shift with Talk Talk yesterday.
"I managed to get the job myself through networking and asking people I knew. Another one of the lads is starting in the same place as me so there's some hope out there for people."
Mr Butler said some of his co-workers had interviews following a jobs forum held by the Irish Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) earlier this month. "Most of them haven't found work but I think a lot of people have interviews after the forum so they're hoping that goes well."
CCMA managing director Dorothy O'Byrne said "just under 40 jobs have been offered" by call centres to the redundant Talk Talk workers in recent weeks.
She said Taxback.com in Kilkenny, UPC in Limerick, Microsoft in Germany and Amazon in Cork were among the companies who have snapped up the employees.
"There are others who are in the final stages of interview. We would encourage the workers to look at our website, we still have over 150 vacancies available," she said.
Ms O'Byrne also said that the CCMA had received "significant funding" through the Department of Education's Skillnets training fund to help staff.
Sinn Fein senator David Cullinane, meanwhile, said the closure of the facility in Waterford represented a "sad day for the workers, their families and the wider community".
He said the "disgraceful way" the staff were treated would leave a "sour taste in people's mouths for many years to come". Mr Cullinane called for the time companies must give to employees to be lengthened from 30 days to 90 days. He also called on the Government to "do more" to support the 460,000 unemployed people across the State.