Cardiff graduates have spoken out against a network of misleading employment schemes, causing staff to work for as little as £5 per sale.
An increasing number of companies that offer self-employment job roles targeted at graduates are being criticised for not being upfront about the positions they are advertising. The name that receives the brunt of these negative reviews is The Cobra Group (also known as The Appco Group) and there are many blogs dedicated to warning people of their methods.
One blog gives a ten-step guide to figuring out if you work for The Cobra Group, which they refer to as “Devilcorp”. The Group is described in one review as a “pyramid scheme”, which uses a “cult-like mentality” to draw people in.
In reality they are a group of companies that all follow a similar business structure, offering self-employed roles. Although these companies, and others like them, are not acting outside the law, many former employees do not believe that they are transparent enough about the jobs that they are offering.
Cardiff University Graduate Andrew Hawkins was employed by a company associated with The Cobra Group last year and described how he was “sucked in by the high intensity atmosphere that promised large earnings and a lavish lifestyle”.
Mr Hawkins was required to perform door-to-door sales for a charity, and was working alone in a residential area until 10pm. After working at the company for just a week, Mr Hawkins read a review online that appeared to describe his experience with the company perfectly and alarm bells started to ring.
Further research uncovered that The Cobra Group faced many accusations that they were using self-employed contracts to provide cheap labour, and Mr Hawkins subsequently left the company.
A company based in Cardiff which has received a similar review is GB Marketing Enterprise Ltd. The company was created in 2014 and offers direct marketing, event management and lead generation services. According to GB Marketing Enterprise Ltd they help people to become “successful entrepreneurs” but not everyone sees it this way.
One former employee described his experience with GB Marketing Enterprise Ltd to Gair Rhydd. He claims he was expected to work 60 hours a week, Monday to Saturday and was told he would earn £300 a week, working out to just £5 an hour, £1.70 less than minimum wage.
Due to his self-employed status, however, this is in no way illegal. Marketing Enterprise Ltd offer entrepreneurial positions and are therefore not required to pay minimum wage, provide safe working conditions, or adhere to any employment laws.
Gregory Thomas, who graduated from Cardiff University earlier this year, described what happened when he applied for a job at the company online. He said that the description of the role was “kept very vague with a couple of power words in there to make it sound professional”.
After applying he received a phone call offering him an interview and after two rounds of interviews he was offered the job but said “no information as to the exact nature of the job was given” and that they “skipped through important details like being self-employed, low commission, number of hours expected”.
Mr Thomas described the training he received before starting the role as a “motivational pep-talk from the owner” in which he was told “shit people make shit sales” and “ten per cent of you will be shit, 80 per cent of you will be average and ten per cent of you will be great”. After this he was asked to start working, under the supervision of a manager.
The job, which had been advertised as a: “trainee manager role with fast progression in an advertising company”, actually involved selling Talk Talk packages to people on the street. Mr Thomas would receive £30 for every sale that he made, but not until he had worked at the company for two weeks.
During this period he would be required to encourage people to talk to the managers, who would then “close the sale”. For each time this was done successfully he was told he would receive £5. After learning what his job would actually entail, and spending four hours on the street trying to sell to strangers, many of whom either ignored him or told him to “fuck off”, Mr Thomas quit.
Gair Rhydd contacted GB Marketing Enterprise Ltd for comment but received no response.