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Hundreds ‘left unpaid’ in Georgia after Irish-owned call centre closes

9 July 2021
Shaw Academy and Precision Services founder Adrian Murphy (left), with Ireland’s Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, Richard Bruton, Enterprise Ireland Director Kevin Sherry, and dietician Michelle Loughlin. Photo: Gary O’ Neill.

Hundreds of call centre workers in Tbilisi fear they will be left without their final month’s pay after a call centre providing services to Irish online education company the Shaw Academy closed.

Employees of the Georgia based Precision Services, which is owned and operated by Shaw Academy founder Adrian Murphy, received text messages at the end of June informing them that their services were no longer required.

Several former call centre workers confirmed to OC Media that they had not been paid their last month’s salary.

Teo Kavtarashvili, a former customer support representative said the company contacted them at the end of June telling them not to come into work as they were experiencing a ‘technical difficulty’ but that their missed days would count as paid holidays. As payday approached on 30 June, Kavtarashvili said they were notified again that the salaries would be late ‘by several weeks’. 

Kavtarashvili also told OC Media that eventually, employees were fired without notice and after that, the company contacted around 40 of them and rehired them at a new company.

‘Our labour rights have been grossly violated’, she said. 

Kavtarishvili said that they were worried that Murphy intended to flee the country without paying them, which could complicate efforts to recover the money they were owed.

Mariam Kurasbediani, who was hired by Precision Services in April, told OC Media that as of 8 July, no one notified her that the company was facing financial problems despite Adrian Murphy being aware of the problems before letting his employees go. 

Kurasbediani claimed that workers were only notified by the company about a problem with the customer relationship management system on 27 June, followed by their corporate emails being suspended the following week leading them to lose access to all records of work-related communications.

Georgian labour union the Solidarity Network, who intend to represent the workers in the mediation process, said that the number of employees left by Precision Services without their last month’s salary as well as compensation for abrupt termination was in the hundreds. 

According to them, the company was aware of their financial difficulties but still decided to make the call centre staff work for free. They said the company was not responding to their inquiries about when the due payments would be made. 

On 6 July, the Solidarity Network rebuked Georgia’s labour policies which they said had allowed a foreign investor to go bankrupt and not pay wages to workers but still to transfer their capital to a new venture to start again.

Adrian Murphy, the owner and director of Precision Services, insisted that the company intended to ‘meet their obligations’ but declined to comment further citing the potential legal ramifications on the ‘ongoing process’. He added that he had no intention of leaving the country before the matter was resolved. 

The Shaw Academy, founded in Dublin in 2013, boasts of teaching over 100 courses to 12 million students. However, the company has met with controversy over some of its business practices and is currently being sued in the UK for allegedly hiding €450,000 ($540,000) in VAT liabilities to investors, the Irish Times reports.

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