Lookers employees at threat of redundancy have lashed out at the way the company is handling the ‘worst of situations’.
Several employees from the former listed car dealer group have contacted Car Dealer claiming the firm is ‘cutting corners’ with its redundancy processes.
One source – at risk of redundancy themselves – said this is the ‘worst the company has treated people in this situation’ that they had ever seen.
Lookers employees claim staff are having their company cars taken back in lieu of notice periods, that some roles are not being advertised and given to other employees and that group consultations are taking place rather than individual ones.
Lookers said all these allegations were ‘incorrect’.
Around 1,000 staff risk losing their jobs at Lookers following the £504.2m deal to take the group private by Global Auto Holdings Ltd (GAHL), a Canadian car dealer group.
CEO Mark Raban left the business last week after just a few weeks’ notice as did CFO Oliver Laird.
Lookers has now admitted that around 14.5% of its workforce risk losing their jobs following the acquisition that was funded by three Canadian banks. The money has been lent to GAHL at crippling interest rates and will need to be refinanced within a year.
‘The whole situation is being handled appallingly,’ one employee told Car Dealer.
‘Most proposals are for redundancies to take place at the end of January but many have not even had individual consultations yet.
‘Normally, staff would have had a meeting by now but they haven’t this time around. We’ve had to make staff redundant in the past and it has never been handled this badly.
‘During the pandemic, Lookers let 1,500 people go and it was all far smoother than this current debacle.
‘In the past, we had different people at the top and it was handled better, but this time around there is little care for the employees affected.’
Lookers sources also claim that simple questions asked by staff on group consultation calls have ‘not been answered’.
One employee is alleged to have asked why an ‘identical role’ to theirs ‘was being advertised while they were being made redundant’. They say the question was not answered.
It also now transpires that operations director roles are at risk of redundancy across the business as well.
‘They are cutting corners to hurry this through as they obviously need to save money – and fast,’ said another disgruntled employee.
‘But we are bearing the brunt of those quick decisions and it’s being handled really badly.
‘It was bad enough finding out just before Christmas that we were losing our jobs, but what’s happened since is even worse.’
Lookers said claims that staff cars were being taken back in lieu of notice and that roles being advertised were the same as those being made redundant were simply ‘incorrect’.
In a statement, a spokesperson from Lookers told Car Dealer: ‘We understand that this is a difficult situation.
‘We are doing our best to be thorough and sensitive to ensure that all employees have a fair consultation process.’
There have also been questions as to whether the Lookers deal may fall foul of Takeover Panel rules.
There was no mention in the statements made pre-acquisition that large numbers of employees risked losing their jobs shortly after the deal went through.
In fact, comments were made to the contrary, with an emphasis placed on the importance of the current staff’s role in building the business in the future. As a result of this, the board recommended the deal to shareholders.
Following Car Dealer’s story that the deal may fall foul of the strict Takeover Panel rules which was published on December 18, Global Auto Holdings made a statement to the London Stock Exchange on the Friday before Christmas (Dec 22).
It was an ‘update to stated post-offer intention statements’ and admitted that following a ‘strategic review’ a redundancy programme was now required.
The statement said: ‘While the consultation process in relation to the proposed redundancy programme remains ongoing, Global Auto Holdings Ltd (GAHL) believes that the total reduction in headcount may be up to 945 Lookers employees, representing 14.5% of Lookers’ total workforce.
‘Mark Raban and Oliver Laird, the chief executive officer and chief financial officer of Lookers, respectively, have also decided to step down from their roles at Lookers.
‘Their decision was voluntary at their election and not at the request of GAHL.’