Why the CPP investigation matters for York
Early this week, local newspaper The York Press reported that CPP, a major private sector employer in the city, was under a full investigation by the Financial Services Authority that could ultimately result in the firm, which employs 1000 people locally being disbanded. Although some form of outline deal has been made, its a situation that is far from over, and which has huge ramifications beyond its current staff.
To understand CPP, or Card Protection Plan, and its role in York, you need to look not just at how many people it currently employs, but also the turn-over of staff which it has employed in the past. Most of those who work there are younger workers, spending less than a year working the phone banks. It is also one of York’s major commercial sponsors of local causes, and its branding appears on almost anything and everything, from sports clubs to voluntary groups to council run events..
Having lived in York or been a student returning each summer ever since the company arrived, its a name that has cropped up very regularly. I can’t think of a time I was looking for work and wasn’t told to apply at CPP by someone. In fact, when I was still in Sixth Form College, two or three members of my form group were working there, and were enthusiastic about how we too could join them (for which I’m pretty certain they would have taken a commission). I found their enthusiasm bewildering at the time and, now I look back, perhaps even slightly tragic.
But CPP took on and paid something like 2000 people every year in York, and after about 12 years in the city, that means 24,000 people will have worked for them. The turnover was about 6months, and many people went on to find new jobs. However, just because someone isn’t working in a company now doesn’t mean they’re not affected by its collapse – for something like 5,000 people who’ve already left, CPP is Reference 1 or Reference 2 on their application forms. No CPP, no reference. And beyond that, does it look good to claim experience in a company that has no morals, even if you yourself were outstanding in your own integrity?
Beyond this, the number of organisations who have taken money from CPP in return for goodwill is vast. Its possibly even as high as a quarter of all non-political voluntary groups in the city. What does it say about your charity if you receive money that is clearly a mask for wrongdoing? Such money can become toxic very rapidly.
I realise that some will think that anyone attacking CPP is threatening the jobs of people currently working for the firm. Perhaps we should look at it another way: the company has spent more than a decade convincing York people to work for them on the basis that it was a legal and morally acceptable form of work. Its not much of a stretch to say that the company has betrayed the city’s youth, many of whom were convinced to work there. As campaigners, the challenge will be to demand compensation for any and all who loose their jobs in whatever restructuring or closure occurs. Those who were mis-sold the products are getting their pay outs, an we must demand the same for past and present staff.