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Working under the knife · Sep 23, 07:02 by Shannon Wynter

As some of my visitors might well know, I was recently in the unfortunate position of working for a company going belly up.

Let me share some words of advice as an unfortunate member of “key personnel” I wish I’d known before this happened.

  • Make sure you get every promise and assurance from the appointed administrators in writing, after all, you are key personnel.
  • When your administrators are terminating all the “unnecessary staff” ask to be terminated with them and offer your services by separate contract to the appointed administrators directly and separately from any other company.
  • Make it absolutely clear that you do not wish to be transferred into the new company if you have no intentions of hanging around.
  • If the new company needs your services for a transitional period, keep yourself separated from them, get go talk to a consulting company have them hire you and sell your services to a new company – it’s a sure sale, they’re making a bit of pocket money, and they’re keeping you out of a bad situation
  • Make it absolutely indisputable that you have never ever worked for the new company directly.

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I was considered key personnel, in fact, it’s fair to say that the administrators wouldn’t have been able to sell the company at least not for as much as they sold it for if I’d not remained in some form or other as the only person in the entire company qualified to operate every server and service (Having built it all – don’t look at me like that, before the company went under I was in the process of training a replacement/assistant).

I was assured (verbally) by the administrators that the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS) would cover most if not all of what was owed to me being made redundant, which at this point was $3000+ of holiday and leave entitlements (I offer big credit and acknowledgment to the
original owners of the company, they spent every last cent they could scratch together – including their own personal capital – giving the employees as much of their owed entitlements as they could) and $7000+ in redundancy – I had after all been there since the dawn of time, if I were to stay and help them keep the company/network running.

I had informed my administrators that I had no real intention to continue working there after a sale of company at around this point also.

During the course of administration I know that there were at least two bids involved to purchase it, one that fell apart as a direct result of a fairly minor network failure that only effected customers on unstable connections. The kicker is, it was easter weekend, I was on the Gold Coast (about 3 hours away by train/bus) with a friend (from overseas) taking a break that I had planned for and invested substantial cash in, over 18 months before the company tripped over it’s feet. Being a responsible member of “key personnel” I had my laptop in the hotel room, however unfortunately I was at Sea World when this issue arose and it took me some time to get back to the hotel.

For those in the know, it was a simple (or as simple as it could be given the ludicrous original design requirements) radius failure that required little more then logging into the server, a few minutes of investigation, and a kick in the pants. It wasn’t an entirely unanticipated issue given that the radius server was the last network component to be upgraded just days before the administrators walked in.

There wasn’t a single other person in the world that could have fixed that issue any faster then myself, in fact it was rumored and suggested that I had even sabotaged it, which goes against all logic as 1) I was inside the gates of Sea World – in fact I think I was on a ride when the phone call came in, 2) The company that pulled out of the bid were trying to convince me to stay on with a rather nice package.

Time progressed and apart from some even more minor inconveniences the network cruised along quite happily for the rest of the transitional period, as all development was on hold I got to sit back and monitor things for a while (Something I hadn’t had a chance to do in 2 years). Don’t get me wrong it was the absolutely most stressful couple of months all told that I have ever experienced – even after 4 years of effectively running an ISP, but we won’t go into therapy here :)

At some point a little ways down the track the new owners took over and I started to work with them to help integrate their systems with ours, I just assumed I was still working for the administrators here as no-one had told me otherwise and I’d not signed any contract or agreements otherwise. A little way into the integration I was again accused of sabotaging the network – I beleive the exact statement was “We’ve had the network analyzed by a security professional and he is convinced that you have parts set up to self destruct if you don’t log in”, which is a rather ludicrous statement as by this point they still didn’t have access to 90% of the network (ie: I had only barely started granting their network techs access to our machines
with ssh/keys/etc – I refused to hand over the password to my own key but had no issues with changing root passwords to suit them and install their technicians keys). I believe it was only brought up (with witnesses) so that it could be used later. I just laughed it off with a statement along the lines of “Why on earth would I create the extra work? I’ve already decided I want to move on once your techs are up to speed and you know this.”

A short time later I was terminated by the new company for “Inability to fulfill responsibilities and issues with fellow employees”. I might add that at this point I had been fulfilling those responsibilities for 5 years (I was contract before being employed) and working with the 4 or 5 people that were in the building (before 1pm when the new owners decided to rock up to work) for up to 4 years.

They knew I was working for them, and they knew it was cheaper to terminate me for some bogus reason then it was to just say we don’t need you given that I was the longest serving employee still in the building.

Keep in mind that by this point, the only thing I’d signed was a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – I was still well under the impression that I was working for the administrators as no-one had told me otherwise or offered me a new contract.

Since this point in time I have spent over 18 months dealing with GEERS who flatly refuse to pay me what I’m owed as I was employed by the new company, I’ve also been trying to get in contact with the owners of the new company because GEERS are adamant that it’s there that the responsibility for my owed fortune lays. I’ve been dealing with Ombudsmen to try and get somewhere through this brick wall infested swap.

Today, I have a decision from the Ombudsman saying that while the new company owed me money, any holiday pay and other entitlements would have to come from the original company and as such I should be going through GEERS. I’m still waiting for a response to my appeal through GEERS

There are finer details here – because I was terminated by the new company I will probably miss out on the $7000+ in redundancy even though they never refilled my position, and I never agreed to work for them. Which is a real kick in the teeth because I built that fricking network wire by wire, component
by component. I fought tooth and nail for every improvement we got, if there was an R&D project, or an improvement request – my name was on it.

What disgusts me about this entire situation is

  1. Employees are kept so poorly informed as to the progress of sale/etc
  2. The onus is on me to run around and chase EVERYONE up, GEERS, Ombudsman, Administrators, and god only knows who else.
  3. The Ombudsman and GEERS disagree as to who is correct but both are powerless to change the others decision.
  1. Even after all this I still have to contact ANOTHER entity to chase up missing superannuation – which I wouldn’t have known had I not made a point of bringing it up with the Ombudsman.

Why is it so hard to do this?
Why can’t I go to one entity, provide all the paper work (which I’ve had to provide to 3 entities so far, the same paper work) and have everything looked after?
Why is it up to the completely un-informed employee to pursue every retard from the administrators through to government departments?

If you don’t know what’s owed to you, there’s no-way you’ll know to chase it…

I’ll add more later, train has arrived at my destination, time to go to work.

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A special note to the visitor from 121.45.45.3 (hint: ADL Internode customer)

You try building everything I built as a one man show, no experience, no help, I learned as I went along, I grew with the company. I’d never routed a single packet beyond a small lan before I worked there, I’d never considered counting data before I’d worked there. In the years I’d been working there I wanted for more help, more experience, better facilities.

Yes it was piece meal and barely held together, but you should have seen it 12 months ago, it was even worse. I am man enough to admit not everything I’d done was the best – some of it even downright shocking, but after working all sort of hour days for all sort of hour weeks, and still not having any time.

I dunno, had I had help, had I had experience, had I known what I know now, had I had less responsibilities… Maybe some of it would have turned out better…

You know the software, wasn’t where my responsibilities ended right? I also had to diagnose radio faults, build and set up routers, help design sites, discover and patch the flaws in the CPE’s firmware, helpdesk, build the machines needed out of whatever I could… I’m sure there’s more…

The elitist attitude you refer to – I assure you it wasn’t intentional – Well I guess that comes when you’ve spent as many sleepless nights holding things together on your own as I had, I can honestly say I understand what the SF admin was going through when they took his baby off him, he just had a much bigger budget to build it…

The company had the uncanny and unfortunate habit of hiring more administration when what it needed was more IT.

As for hoping I don’t get money that is legally owed to me by entitlements laid out in a contract – I guess you’re company is just lucky they didn’t have to foot the bill like GEERS originally suggested. Let us see what karma has in store.

BTW, the comment field appears to have cut you off half way through a line… feel free to use the contact form to submit a longer comment – I didn’t get anything after “Because if you don”.

Perhaps if you use a real email address/name we can discuss this like civilized humans, I can explain how things ended up where they were, you can explain how you would have done it better – working alone.

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