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Canadian Contact Centers Close Doors, Cut Back Operations
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Canadian Contact Centers Close Doors, Cut Back Operations

June 12, 2009
By Brendan B. Read
Senior Contributing Editor

Four Canadian contact centers, located east and north of Toronto, Ontario, are closing permanently, temporarily, or are laying off staff.
The Belleville Intelligencer reported last week that Teleperformance (News - Alert) has temporarily let go 100 staff: the last of its employees at its downtown contact center at what had been a nearly 700-person operation. The Belleville workers were joined on the bricks by over 300 others that had been made redundant at Teleperformance’s Peterborough facility.

The France-based teleservices firm cited the ending of a client contract. In a statement reported by the newspaper, Teleperformance said: “’It is the goal to replace the business at both these locations and bring employees impacted by the temporary layoff back to work as soon as possible.’” Teleperformance moved into Belleville and Peterborough in late 2005 when it acquired Multi-Channel Communications Inc. (MCCI).
The now former employees told the newspaper that they knew a downsizing was in the winds. They said there were dozens of people who were laid off a few weeks ago including all of the training staff. Also some full-time employees’ hours had their hours cut down to 30 hours per week. One worker reported that call volume dwindled. 
“’We were sitting around probably the last month, not doing much,’” he told the paper.
Workers outside the Peterborough office told the media that Teleperformance/MCCI had lost its contract with T-Mobile (News - Alert) for BlackBerry technical support.
In Trenton, Ontario, which is next to Belleville, and is home to CFB Trenton, Canada’s largest air force base, TeleTech announced that it is shuttering its center there by Aug.31, letting go some 220 employees, after being in operation for less than three years.
TeleTech spokesperson Bob Livingston told the Trentonian newspaper that the closure was a direct result of an undisclosed client requiring services not offered at the Trenton operation. He added the closure is “not a reflection’’ of quality of work completed at the site.
“’There is a change in the needs of the client’,’” said Livingston. “’The work will be moved around to other centers,’’” He would not disclose the locations of where the existing work was headed.
As with Teleperformance/MCCI in Belleville, the workers knew there was a downsizing in the winds. An employee who did not want to be identified said that TeleTech kept closing departments and shuffling people around. “Things haven’t been good here for the past 10 months,” said the now former staffer.
John Williams, Mayor of Quinte West, which includes Trenton, said TeleTech did have a problem with employee retention.
“’The city, Trenval and the local economic development commission tried to help the company through those problems,’” said Williams.
The newspaper said that TeleTech employees in Orillia faced the same news as their Trenton colleagues last month. In early May, layoff notices were issued to 472 out of 591 employees at TeleTech’s Orillia contact center effective July 31.
A TeleTech official told Sun Media, parent of the Intelligencer and the Trentonian, that the layoff notices were the result of one of the Orillia facility’s two clients shutting down. Yet those same officials were hopeful new clients will be found. If a new client is found employees who received layoff notices will be selected for the jobs first.
There may be some bright spots in the Belleville/Trenton area. Mayor Williams hinted another teleservices firm may be interested in relocating to the soon to be former TeleTech site. Stream in Belleville has been hiring.
Yet these may be faint hope, and the local social services agencies are bracing for the impacts. Officials with Hastings County, which incorporates Belleville and Trenton/Quinte West, told the Intelligencer said they are concerned about the impact recent layoffs will have on both social assistance numbers and the job market.
The social assistance caseload rose again in May to 3,503, a one per cent increase over April and almost 18 per cent over the same time last year.
According to Statistics Canada the local unemployment rate increased to 9.1 per cent in May from 8.9 per cent in April and up from 5.9 per cent last year.
The region has been hit by layoffs in manufacturing say now-former residents, and housing prices have declined. Contact centers had been a private sector employment bright spot; in addition to Stream, NCO and Sears Canada have large facilities in Belleville. The area has instead been pinning its hopes on expansion at CFB Trenton plus on on-again/off-again plans for a new racetrack and casino between Belleville and Trenton.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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