Nova Scotia

Shuttered Sydney call centre may reopen by Jan. 2

The ServiCom call centre in Cape Breton is aiming to open as The Sydney Call Centre Inc. by Jan. 2, 2019, according to a news release issued Tuesday night from Marlowe Companies Inc.

Marlowe Companies Inc. close to finalizing ServiCom deal, Sydney call centre shut down Dec. 6

More than 600 people worked at the ServiCom call centre in Sydney, N.S., when it shut its doors last week. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

The former ServiCom call centre in Cape Breton could be reopen within weeks and operating under a new name, the U.S.-based company behind its planned resurrection said late Tuesday.

In a news release, Marlowe Companies Inc. (MCI) said it hoped to have people working by Jan. 2 at The Sydney Call Centre Inc. — less than a month after ServiCom suddenly closed its doors Dec. 6, throwing some 600 employees out of work.

For some former ServiCom employees like Emma Laing, it means a merry Christmas after all. 

"I am absolutely thrilled," she said. 

"I know that everyone's super relieved to be getting back to work. New owner, new start, new year — everything's going to be great for Sydney. It's going to be a great Christmas gift knowing that we'll all have jobs to go back to."

Former employee Terry Boutilier called it "an early Christmas present."

"It's been a stressful time. [It will] be nice just to get up and go to work, hear the alarm clock ring and do our thing again.… It's been rough," he said.

'Opportunity to do something meaningful' 

The company said when its CEO, Anthony Marlowe, heard about the layoffs, he saw "an opportunity to do something meaningful on behalf of the people of Sydney."

"Expanding into a new country in less than 30 days is a big undertaking, but we have a great team and technology in place to get it done," Marlowe said in the release.

"That coupled with the talent, quality, tenure and commitment of the team on the ground, and we have the ingredients for a high degree of short- and long-term success."

MCI's holdings include several telecommunications and call centre support companies. Should the $1.5-million deal go through, the company will take over four of ServiCom's contracts. 

Marlowe said Sydney — a "tight-knit community" — was a great fit for his company's business.

"MCI knows it cannot change the emotional impact the ServiCom closure has had on the employees and community over the past month but hopes that quickly bringing jobs back to Sydney will help everyone look forward to 2019," the release said.

ServiCom still on hook for past wages, liabilities

MCI said it intends to enter a nine-year lease for the shuttered facility and offer "tech-enabled inbound and outbound customer service, technical support, and inside telesales programs."

ServiCom, which declared bankruptcy, would remain responsible for past wages and other liabilities, it said. However, MCI added it would "do as much as possible" to help employees, including providing employment offers with sign-on and retention bonuses to ServiCom workers.

"We hope that this will help lessen some of the financial impacts of the closing," Marlowe said in the release.

Geoff MacLellan delivered the ServiCom news in Cape Breton Tuesday night. (CBC)

Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan has said Marlowe expressed interest in buying the call centre before the layoffs were announced.

"I can say with absolute certainty, Anthony is committed to getting this open as soon as possible, the Sydney call centre resuming operations," MacLellan told reporters earlier Tuesday.

MacLellan, who is also an MLA for the area, said the deadline to finalize the business deal is Friday, but he expects that could happen as soon as Wednesday.

"At this point, there is still a court process that has to unfold.... but at this point, it looks like MCI will be the group that will carry on in Sydney," said MacLellan, adding that "everything looks really positive in terms of the completeness of the process."

The past few weeks have been difficult, he added.

"This is a very scary time for people in the community that I love so much — so for us, for Glace Bay, Sydney, New Waterford and all points in between ... this is good news."

CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke said the sale gives the former ServiCom employees something to look forward to. 

"I understand that the sale doesn't erase the stress and fear the ServiCom employees have lived through these past weeks," Clarke said in a news release.

"But we can at least move into the Christmas season with a new sense of peace and joy knowing that this dedicated group can get back to work as soon as possible."

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

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