New Brunswick

Labour shortage a factor in S&P Data closure, Edmundston mayor says

S&P Data faced challenges finding workers for its business services centre before deciding to close it last week, says the mayor of Edmundston. 

'It's sad because some of those people love this line of work'

Edmundston Mayor Cyrille Simard says he was surprised by last week's S&P Data closure. (CBC)

S&P Data faced challenges finding workers for its business services centre before deciding to close it last week, says the mayor of Edmundston. 

The company closed its two New Brunswick centres on Friday, putting 245 people out of work, and laid off about 300 people at its three Ontario locations. 

"We knew when the company was coming here we were facing some labour shortages," Cyrille Simard said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

Eighty-seven people were laid off in the Edmundston area. The S&P location at the Madawaska Centre was expected to employ up to 289 people within five years.

The S&P Data centre in Saint John also closed.

The Saint John and Edmundston closures come just one year after S&P set up shop in New Brunswick with millions in pledged support from the provincial government.

"They were obviously facing a challenge in terms of recruitment," Simard said.

According to spokesperson Jim Hennessy, Opportunities New Brunswick has paid $584,000 of the $5.3 million committed under the terms of the two agreements with S&P Data.

Concerned for employees 

Simard said he was surprised by the Edmundston closure.

I don't want to say we're getting used to it, but that's just what happens.- Cyrille Simard , mayor of Edmundston

The mayor learned about it in a phone call from Opportunities New Brunswick. A few minutes later, S&P Data announced the news publicly.

"I was concerned for the employees obviously," Simard said. "There was a lot of publicity for this company coming here."

In the Edmundston area, the unemployment rate is about 4.1 per cent.   

Edmundston is in a region that has seen one of the lowest unemployment rates in the province for much of the past year, according to Statistics Canada figures. 

But this isn't the first time Edmundston has faced layoffs in recent years.

Last year, S&P Data established a business services centre in Edmundston that aimed to create up to 289 jobs over the next five years, with the help of $2.2 million from the provincial government. (Opportunities NB)

The Sears call centre in Edmundston, which promised to bring 180 jobs to the province, closed in November 2017.

"I don't want to say we're getting used to it, but that's just what happens," Simard said.

Simard said he's started to think about why call centres are closing and what conditions the city can create to attract more stable businesses.

He's hopeful the 87 people laid off in the area will find work in other fields.

All was quiet at S&P Data in east Saint John after the closure of the call centre was announced Friday. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

"It's sad because some of those people love this line of work," he said.  

On Twitter last week, Simard said Quebec's proposed secular law was a chance to attract people to northwestern New Brunswick.

Over the weekend, he received about 10 resumés from people asking what jobs were being offered in Edmundston and New Brunswick as a whole.

"It had an impact for people who probably see there would be less opportunities for them in the province of Quebec," he said.

With files from Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon

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