Nova Scotia

ServiCom workers trying to stay optimistic amid community support

Nearly 600 workers in Cape Breton have learned they're out of a job just before Christmas but some are trying to stay positive as they consider their next steps.

Nearly 600 workers learned they were out of a job after call centre declared bankruptcy Dec. 6

Hundreds lined up at a Sydney Salvation Army food bank on Friday afternoon. The Salvation Army will also be opening its doors on Monday afternoon to allow people to register for assistance over the Christmas season. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Some former employees of ServiCom call centre in Cape Breton are trying to remain optimistic and say they've been bolstered by an outpouring of support from their community. 

More than 600 people were abruptly put out of work Thursday afternoon with the announcement that the call centre was shutting down. 

Brett Murphy worked at the call centre for almost two years on the ATT contract. Now he and his wife are out of work.

"It comes as mind blow[ing] when you have both of your incomes come to a sudden halt. Bills don't stop. Food doesn't stop," he said. 

Murphy was one of many people who dropped by the food bank in Sydney on Friday.

"They went all out, above and beyond to help out my family as much as possible," he said. "With all the support that's going on, I feel a little bit better."

 He's now considering options and career opportunities elsewhere. 

"We gotta survive… we don't want to show our daughter the struggle. We want to keep our heads high and show her that we can make it out of anything," he said. 

Dan Lalaucher of Sydney Mines worked as a supervisor at ServiCom overseeing a team of about 20 people. 

Though he didn't receive any advance notice of the shut down, he's been fielding calls and message from people on his team who are desperate for information, he said Saturday. 

 "Everyone is taking it pretty hard," he said. 

Cape Breton Regional Police at ServiCom offices in Sydney as the company announced it was shutting down, putting hundreds out of work. (CBC)

Lalaucher said like many of his colleagues he has already applied for Employment Insurance benefits. He expects to go back to the food industry, where he worked as a chef for a decade. 

Amid the shock, though, he said it's been "absolutely incredible" to see the community rally around workers like himself. 

Across Cape Breton, a number of businesses, community organizations and individuals have collected food, money and Christmas gifts for the former employees.

"I didn't expect this much of a cry from the community to help and so quick with it too," Lalaucher said. "It was definitely overwhelming to see the community come together so quick."

'This could be us'

Seaside Communications cancelled their Dec. 14 staff Christmas party and instead donated the $10,000 that would've gone to the event to the Salvation Army so it could help those who lost their jobs. 

CEO Loran Tweedie said many people in his company have friends, family and neighbours who worked at the call centre and wanted to shine a light on the need.

"But it's so much bigger than that. You've got all the family members that are impacted. You've got all the support companies that provide services, all these folks shop in the grocery stores. It has a significant multiplier effect inside the economy," he said.

Tweedie said the hardship will become even more apparent with time, but in the meantime, the community needs to look out for people who are facing Christmas without a job or paycheck. 

"Everyone has to have a view this could be us tomorrow," he said. 

With files from Jennifer Ludlow