Call cen­tre abruptly closes in N.S., hun­dreds job­less

Medicine Hat News - - BUSINESS -

SYD­NEY, N.S. Al­most 700 peo­ple lost their jobs at a Cape Bre­ton call cen­tre Thurs­day af­ter the com­pany an­nounced its im­me­di­ate clo­sure, leav­ing em­ploy­ees stunned and with­out work weeks be­fore Christ­mas.

ServiCom of­fi­cials gath­ered work­ers at the op­er­a­tion in Syd­ney just af­ter lunch to in­form them that it was shut­ter­ing the fa­cil­ity, fol­low­ing weeks of pay delays and a bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion fil­ing by its par­ent com­pany in the United States.

Kayla Wil­liams, who worked at the of­fice for five years, said she was blind­sided by the news, es­pe­cially af­ter she said the com­pany of­fi­cials had re­cently promised bonuses and pay in­cen­tives.

“I am dev­as­tated to say the very least. It was def­i­nitely not what I ex­pected,” the 26-year-old said from her home in Syd­ney be­fore head­ing to the lo­cal Em­ploy­ment Canada of­fice to start the process of fil­ing for in­sur­ance.

“I want to be able put oil in my tank. I want to be able to put gro­ceries in my cup­board. I have two chil­dren here.”

Ce­cil Clarke, mayor of the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, said in a state­ment Thurs­day evening that the sud­den clo­sure “came as a shock,” de­spite the com­pany’s on­go­ing fi­nan­cial trou­bles.

He said com­pany representatives have in­di­cated they are in the process of ar­rang­ing a sale of the Syd­ney op­er­a­tion and “are hop­ing to have this sit­u­a­tion re­solved in the next cou­ple of days.”

Clarke sug­gested it may be up and run­ning again un­der new own­er­ship.

Todd Ri­ley, the for­mer site man­ager at the Syd­ney of­fice, sug­gested on his Face­book page that work could be com­ing to the site un­der an­other com­pany.

“Hardest day of my life!! Thanks to ev­ery­one who I worked with. I can­not ex­press how much I am hurt by this de­ci­sion but I am work­ing as hard as pos­si­ble and be­lieve we will get back to work soon,” he wrote.

Some em­ploy­ees said they left the site with no pay Thurs­day, pass­ing by po­lice ve­hi­cles sta­tioned out­side.

Wil­liams, who worked the phones for On­Star, said she had ex­pe­ri­enced pay delays dat­ing back to Au­gust when she said there was a prob­lem with the pay­roll sys­tem caus­ing her to go weeks with­out com­pen­sa­tion.

In Oc­to­ber, she said em­ploy­ees had to wait about two weeks to get paid when the com­pany was fil­ing for bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion. She said she is owed sev­eral weeks of pay that she fears she may not see.

She said em­ploy­ees were promised the cen­tre was go­ing to be there and that they did not need to worry about los­ing their jobs.

“I feel like it was a trick to keep us all there, es­pe­cially af­ter promis­ing us all of these bonuses,” she said.

“I have a two-and-a-half-year-old (daugh­ter), a house, a mort­gage and all the bills that come along with it, so this is not a great feel­ing es­pe­cially three weeks be­fore Christ­mas.”

She said a lo­cal food bank was open­ing its doors to em­ploy­ees and an oil com­pany was of­fer­ing to adopt her fam­ily for Christ­mas.

Mean­while, the com­mu­nity is ral­ly­ing be­hind the laid off ServiCom work­ers, with fundrais­ing cam­paigns aimed at help­ing out fam­i­lies fac­ing un­cer­tainty.

The Sal­va­tion Army Syd­ney Com­mu­nity Church said on Face­book it planned to open its food bank Thurs­day af­ter­noon to all laid off ServiCom em­ploy­ees.

The church is also launch­ing a Christ­mas as­sis­tance pro­gram next week, and is ask­ing the com­mu­nity to do­nate non-per­ish­ables to its food bank or to make fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions to its Christ­mas Ket­tle Cam­paign.

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