Convergys to cut 150 jobs in Dartmouth call centre

Jobs are on the line at the Convergys Corp. call centre in Dartmouth after the loss of a major client, workers there said Thursday.

A staffer at the Highfield Park Drive call centre said in a telephone interview the layoffs are the result of the loss of a major client in the operation’s customer-service section and may affect several hundred workers.

Some staffers entering the complex Thursday said the number of people losing jobs will be in the range of 150.

Meanwhile, a Convergys official at the company’s Cincinnati headquarters said fewer than 100 jobs will be lost because some of the workers affected by the loss of the major client will be transferred to other projects and offered opportunities to work at home.

“With the anticipated transition of many employees to the work-at-home program, the number of those impacted will be fewer than 100,” spokeswoman Amy Williams said in a written statement.

There may be some confusion about how many jobs are on the line, but Convergys officials announced Wednesday during a staff meeting at the contact centre that layoffs are pending.

Job losses were to occur as the unnamed major client reduced its contracted services beginning in February, and eliminated work handled at the Dartmouth location entirely by April, some workers said.

The company confirmed via email Thursday the Dartmouth call centre was adjusting its workforce as a major client closed “segments of their customer-care programs” supported by the site.

Convergys would not reveal the client’s name. Some workers said it is a major American mobility service provider.

“Convergys anticipates that many of the impacted employees who meet the performance and home environment requirements will be able to transition to a work-at-home position,” said Williams.

“We are working to determine how many employees will be able to take advantage of this opportunity.”

She also said employees “in good standing” may pursue job openings at other Convergys locations.

“Employees who do not transition to another position will receive professional support through the Convergys Employee Assistance Program.”

Williams said there are no plans to close the Dartmouth site.

Convergys has about 70,000 employees in 69 customer contact centers and other facilities in the United States, Canada and around the world.

About one month ago, Convergys officials were in New Glasgow sponsoring a job fair to hire up to 70 people for its East River Road location.

Those workers were going to be providing customer service for a client in the health-care industry, the company said.

Bruce Cameron, president of Contact Centre Nova Scotia, an organization representing the provincial industry, said he is saddened Convergys will lay off some workers, but he commended the company for offering employees the opportunity to participate in a work-from-home program.

“Convergys, like many other large global companies, is feeling the impact of the sluggish economic recovery,” Cameron said in a news release.

“There are about 40 major contact centres in Nova Scotia that employ 13,000 people, some in rural areas where there are fewer opportunities for skilled jobs.”

He said these jobs contribute about $500 million in direct payroll benefits to the Nova Scotia economy and provide many economic spinoffs.

Convergys call centres at Truro-Millbrook and at Cornwallis that employed hundreds of people closed in 2010 and 2011.

While Convergys was closing the Truro-Millbrook and Cornwallis operations, the company was ramping up operations in the Philippines, where its workforce totals more than 23,000 people, according to an industry insider with connections in Manila.

Economic and Rural Development and Tourism Minister Percy Paris said Convergys didn’t approach the province for more assistance for the Dartmouth centre, as far as he knew.

Paris said the call centre industry has grown more competitive globally in the last 10 years, with more being established in areas with cheaper labour such as Asia and Mexico.

He said the NDP government, elected in 2009, hasn’t aggressively pursued contact centres, focusing instead on higher-paying jobs. But Paris said the centres still provide jobs in the province, and he hopes they survive.

“A lot of those jobs are in rural areas of the province. I think they were very, very useful.”

Source: The Chronicle Herald