Dev­as­tat­ing loss

HGS call cen­tre in Mon­tague to close in March, throw­ing 65 peo­ple out of work

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEVE SHAR­RATT

It was dev­as­tat­ing news for Mon­tague Mayor Richard Collins.

Collins re­ceived a call from a com­pany spokesman Tues­day apol­o­giz­ing for the pend­ing clo­sure of the HGS Canada call cen­tre in this east­ern P.E.I. town.

The move will throw 65 peo­ple out of work.

The em­ploy­ees were handed pink slips Tues­day and no­ti­fied that the Brook Street op­er­a­tion will close March 4.

“It’s a shock to the sys­tem, so un­ex­pected,” said Collins.

“I’m feel­ing bad for those who will be with­out work in dif­fi­cult times right now at this time of the year.”

A spokesper­son for the global op­er­a­tion said ev­ery ef­fort will be made to help each in­di­vid­ual find com­pa­ra­ble em­ploy­ment at an­other HGS Canada lo­ca­tion or within the com­mu­nity.

“The lim­ited labour mar­ket size has not al­lowed us to pro­duce the scale that the busi­ness re­quires to be sus­tain­able,” said Joanne Mor­ri­son of HGS North Amer­ica.

“This crit­i­cal fact, mul­ti­plied by the chal­lenges in the Cana­dian eco­nomic cli­mate, has made this de­ci­sion nec­es­sary.”

Em­ploy­ees ar­riv­ing for the Tues­day morn­ing shift at the cen­tre de­clined to re­spond to ques­tions about the fu­ture of the op­er­a­tion as they quickly moved in­side from the cold winds.

The call cen­tre had grown sub­stan­tially over the past num­ber of years and even an­nounced an ex­pan­sion of 30 more jobs last July, which pushed lev­els to 120 work­ers. How­ever, a for­mer man­ager, now work­ing else­where and ask­ing not to be iden­ti­fied, said main­tain­ing a full com­ple­ment of staff was dif­fi­cult.

“(HGS) likes to have cen­tres with a strong em­ploy­ment level, and we just couldn’t com­pete at our lit­tle site,’’ she said. “You could see what was hap­pen­ing last fall.”

The for­mer man­ager said the clo­sure is un­for­tu­nate since the Mon­tague cen­tre has earned top per­for­mance awards out of all the sites in Canada.

“It’s a job that peo­ple have to work hard at be­ing nice to cus­tomers that are not so nice, and agents are ex­pected to work year round with lit­tle missed time. That’s not an easy task for some peo­ple.”

The for­mer em­ployee said the em­ploy­ment ranks, once a bustling 150, had dwin­dled to only about 50 agents now with about 15 sup­port staff. The call cen­tre, orig­i­nally set up by On­Line Sup­port, opened in 2002 and has a ban­ner out­side the front door not­ing wages of $12.50 an hour.

Collins said com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives felt bad about the clo­sure and want to make sure peo­ple find other jobs.

“But they said there just weren’t enough agents.”

STEVE SHAR­RATT/THE GUARDIAN

An em­ployee ar­rives for work at the HGS call cen­tre in Mon­tague. The 10-year-old com­pany is hand­ing out pink slips and ex­pects to close in March.

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