‘It’s going to be a struggle’
Former ServiCom employees appreciative of support they’ve been getting
■ LOST JOBS
As she stood outside the Salvation Army food bank Friday awaiting her turn to register with them, Sharon McDonald’s thoughts were of her co-workers who, along with herself, found out suddenly Thursday afternoon that they had lost their jobs at the ServiCom call centre.
“It was devastating for a lot of us,” said McDonald, an employee at ServiCom since 2003. “We weren’t expecting that.”
Even with several occasions in recent months where employees received delayed pay or awaited other payments such as bonuses, she said nothing could have prepared the workers for the news that the call centre was shutting down immediately, throwing all 600 employees out of work.
“We didn’t expect it because I know Todd Riley, the centre manager, he did everything he could to try to pull us out of this and he’s still trying to fight for us to try to get something going.
“There’s so many young people with small children, Christmas is coming in three weeks, there were bills that were owed.”
McDonald noted her own children are grown but she and her partner still have bills to pay, and losing an income is never an easy adjustment. By early Friday afternoon she had already filed for employment insurance.
“It’s going to be a struggle, but I’m hoping that maybe they’ll reopen with the new owners that they’re talking about. Hopefully we’ll get to get back together because we are all one big family ... I wouldn’t trade those people for anything.”
In addition to filing for EI benefits and hoping that the call centre might reopen, McDonald said she also intended to look into what courses may be available for her to take.
As she spoke, McDonald learned that Alexandra’s Pizza had dropped off $3,000 in gift cards for the workers who had lost their jobs.
“I think it’s wonderful because Cape Breton is a place of giving, we all look after each other, no matter hard times, good times, we’re all together,” she said.
McDonald added she’s grateful to those such as the Salvation Army who reached out to the former ServiCom employees.
“Ever since my children were small, and my oldest ins 29, the Salvation Army has helped me a lot over the years,” she said. “
The Salvation Army Sydney Community Church had announced it would open its food bank to assist all employees of ServiCom, with only a recent pay stub required as proof of employment. As well, in partnership with Every Woman’s Centre, it will offer registration for Christmas assistance at the church, located at 55 Inglis St., on Monday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Other various fundraisers have been discussed online and Cape Breton Screaming Eagles offered former ServiCom employees complimentary tickets to Saturday’s home game against the Quebec Remparts. They were invited to go to the Centre 200 box office with their identification badge to get tickets for the game.
Michelle Hillier of Marion Bridge, who worked at ServiCom for five years, said the news of the centre’s closure hit hard.
“It is a profitable business, it does well and to come to us at 3 o’clock and say, ‘Log off,’ it’s …”
“They screwed us,” a nearby man interjected.
The lack of pay has left people scrambling, particularly given the time of year, Hillier said, not only because of Christmas being around the corner but also with responsibilities such as increasing heating costs.
“It’s not the presents that I’m worried about this year, it’s being able to heat my home and have my lights.”
Her partner is working at a local retail operation but the loss of the ServiCom income has left them scrambling. She noted their oil tank was just filled and they were due to pay the bill by Thursday but had to advise their supplier that it would be late.
She noted employees haven’t yet been given their records of employment or other paperwork.
“They say possibly 30-60 days but I’m not gonna count on that,” Hillier said. “At EI, it was like going to a funeral. Our heart breaks. It’s a job we’ve been dedicated to for years.”
She was also very appreciative of the support that has been shown to the employees by their fellow Cape Bretoners.
“I think it’s great that Cape Breton is coming together to help others out, especially this time of year, three weeks before Christmas, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” Hillier said.
Sharon McDonald, who had worked at ServiCom since 2003, displays the number she was given when she arrived to register at the Salvation Army food bank in Sydney Friday as well as a pizza shop gift card that was donated to the affected workers, a day after 600 people lost their jobs with the sudden closure at ServiCom. Agencies, businesses and individuals have pledged to do what they can to assist those who have been left unemployed.