ServiCom shuts down

Par­ent com­pany JNET Com­mu­ni­ca­tions filed for bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion on Oct. 19

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS SHAN­NON

Em­ploy­ees trick­ling out of ServiCom Thurs­day car­ry­ing crates of per­sonal be­long­ings stopped briefly to em­brace co­work­ers in the park­ing lot, mark­ing the sad­dest day yet for the be­lea­guered Syd­ney call cen­tre.

It was pos­si­bly the fi­nal chap­ter in a story that be­gan to take shape on Oct. 19 when the call cen­tre’s par­ent com­pany JNET Com­mu­ni­ca­tions of New Jersey filed for bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion.

A mid-af­ter­noon an­nounce­ment by ServiCom site di­rec­tor Todd Ri­ley con­firmed the worstcase sce­nario: the call cen­tre was shut­ting down throw­ing about 600 peo­ple out of work 18 days be­fore Christ­mas.

The news of the clo­sure hit so­cial me­dia net­works fast, forc­ing em­ploy­ees who work the night shift in early to find out if they still had a job.

The news was tough to ab­sorb for some.

“We are just dumb­founded,” said one woman through tears.

“They told us it was not go­ing to close and then this is what hap­pens,” said an­other, em­brac­ing her friend and co-worker. Nei­ther wanted to pro­vide their names.

Peo­ple started leav­ing the build­ing, lo­cated at the rear of the Syd­ney Shop­ping Cen­tre, just be­fore 3 p.m. with all of their be­long­ings in tow.

ServiCom site di­rec­tor Todd Ri­ley blasted the com­pany’s ex­ec­u­tive team for mis­lead­ing him and all em­ploy­ees at the cen­tre. “Any time would be hard, but Christ­mas­time? To me, it’s a very cow­ardly act. It’s some­thing this busi­ness knew for a while it was go­ing through and they lied,” he said.

“They lied to me and, in turn, I had to work with 700 peo­ple — to go in day in and day out to keep peo­ple on the phones en­cour­ag­ing them that things are go­ing to get bet­ter.

“I am very, very dis­ap­pointed in the lead­er­ship.”

For the last sev­eral weeks, due to the Chap­ter 11 fil­ing in U.S. bank­ruptcy court in Con­necti­cut, pay­cheques have been as much as five to six days be­hind sched­ule.

In a memo to staff in early Novem­ber, Ri­ley in­di­cated it was his hope to get em­ployee pays back on sched­ule for the Dec. 28 pay­day. Em­ploy­ees were also promised a so-called $250 “loy­alty” bonus along with other fi­nan­cial perks for stick­ing with the com­pany in the days fol­low­ing the bank­ruptcy fil­ing. It was to be paid out Dec. 14.

The call cen­tre lost about 50 to 75 em­ploy­ees after the Chap­ter 11 fil­ing, ac­cord­ing to Ri­ley.

For those who de­cided to stay, no one will see their bonus or their reg­u­lar pay­cheques. Em­ploy­ees last re­ceived a pay on or around Nov. 21.

The plan is to work with Ser­vice Canada to en­sure all em­ploy­ees ap­ply for and re­ceive em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance ben­e­fits as soon as pos­si­ble, Ri­ley said. “We want to keep very close con­tact with our work­ers here.”

He said he’s been speak­ing with an Amer­i­can in­vestor who toured the call cen­tre last week and is in­ter­ested in buy­ing its as­sets.

The busi­ness­man had been part of a larger deal for the past few weeks to buy the com­pany as part of the bank­ruptcy case.

Ac­cord­ing to Ri­ley, the man owns call cen­tres in Iowa, North Dakota, Ge­or­gia, Mas­sachusetts and New Hamp­shire.

“He knows this busi­ness very well; that’s why he re­ally wanted to come down and do some in­ves­ti­gat­ing him­self.”

He added, “I’m go­ing to work my darn­d­est to get this deal done within the next five to 10 busi­ness days so we can get peo­ple back em­ployed.”

He de­scribed the call cen­tre as be­ing “ex­tremely prof­itable,” to­talling $500,000 to $600,000 in gross rev­enue a month.

The call cen­tre’s four clients — GM OnS­tar, Sir­ius XM satel­lite ra­dio, AT&T and Al­ls­tate In­sur­ance — will be handed back all pro­pri­etary in­for­ma­tion cur­rently held by ServiCom, said Ri­ley.ServiCom opened in 1999 as Ron We­ber and As­so­ciates Inc. in Syd­ney River.

CHRIS SHAN­NON/CAPE BRE­TON POST

A ServiCom em­ployee walks down an aisle on the empty call cen­tre floor less than an hour after the day shift was told Thurs­day af­ter­noon the com­pany had gone bank­rupt and would be shut­ting down op­er­a­tions im­me­di­ately. ServiCom’s par­ent com­pany JNET Com­mu­ni­ca­tions filed for bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion on Oct. 19.

CHRIS SHAN­NON/CAPE BRE­TON POST

ServiCom call cen­tre em­ploy­ees leave the build­ing in Syd­ney on Thurs­day af­ter­noon with all of their be­long­ings after be­ing told the com­pany has gone bank­rupt and has had to cease all op­er­a­tions im­me­di­ately.

Ri­ley

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