A lack of willing workers drove the HGS call centre out of Thunder Bay, according to the company's vice president of human resources, but a man who wanted to work there sees things differently.

HGS announced on Thursday that it is closing its operation in Thunder Bay's Victoriaville Mall on June 5.

There were 131 people employed at the in-bound call centre, less than half of what HGS needed, Kathy Follett-Lloyd said.

"We have been recruiting aggressively for the four-and-a-half years we've been here," she said. "We've done things within our company to make our employment opportunities more attractive and more competitive and still we were unable to maintain or even reach 300 employees."

'Wage has never been a factor'

There were "multiple challenges" with recruiting, but wage was not one of them, Follett-Lloyd said. Starting pay at HGS is $12.25 an hour and the average wage is higher.

Kathy Follett-Lloyd

A shortage of workers caused HGS to leave Thunder Bay, says Kathy Follett-Lloyd, the company's vice president of human resources. (linkedin.ca)

"Wage has never been a factor. We have not been told that wage has been a factor," she said, adding that recruitment has not been an issue in nearly a dozen other Canadian cities where HGS operates.

It's the second closure of a call centre in Thunder Bay since February. Follett-Lloyd said HGS saw a "small influx" of applicants after Teleperformance closed, but not enough to justify staying in the city.

Don Potz is one of about 160 people who were laid off from Teleperformance in February. He said he was looking forward to starting a job at HGS  in a few weeks after recently completing an interview and testing. 

'Complete shock'

"It's a complete shock because I'm not officially hired until I go down and report for the training class," Potz said.

During the hiring process Potz said HGS recruiters told him they were optimistic about the future with more potential employees available after both Teleperformance and the Target store shut down in Thunder Bay.

"HGS told me they were going to expand because of the other closures," he said. "So this is really contrary to what I was expecting — to go into training this next week. It's pretty difficult when you're two years away from retirement trying to bridge the gap until  65." 

Potz believes the call centres are sending business off-shore. But HGS said the work currently being done in Thunder Bay will be distributed among its 10 other Canadian locations. Follett-Lloyd said HGS staff in the city will have the opportunity to relocate.

"This has nothing to do with the performance of the employees we have, they have been stellar and the community has treated us very well," she said. "It's an unfortunate situation of not being able to staff to the levels that are required."