Nova Scotia

After 'whirlwind of turmoil,' hundreds returning to reopened Sydney call centre

Hundreds of people in Cape Breton who were unexpectedly laid off three weeks before Christmas are returning to their former positions under new management at the Sydney Call Centre.

Starting wage for newly hired workers will increase to $12 per hour from $11 per hour

Felicia Headley, left, and Jenna Cluett were part of the first shift back. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Hundreds of people in Cape Breton who were unexpectedly laid off three weeks before Christmas are returning to their former positions under new management at the Sydney Call Centre. 

Iowa businessman Anthony Marlowe bought the former ServiCom call centre in an auction that was part of ServiCom's bankruptcy proceedings in the United States.

"It was definitely a great way to bring in the new year," said Chauncey Sullivan, who worked at ServiCom for three years. "It was a rough couple of weeks but I managed. I had family, my mom helped me out a tremendous amount." 

Todd Riley, the former Sydney ServiCom director of operations who is now vice-president of the new interation, said "a solid 65 per cent" of the new centre's 475 employees are starting today.​

"It's been a whirlwind of turmoil," he told the group. "But I can tell you one thing, we are 100 per cent committed in making this way better than it has been before."

Hundreds of employees reported to work this morning. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

There will be some refresher training and staff will be going over their new benefits package, he said. 

Riley said staff will resume working on the AT&T and OnStar accounts. He said the majority of people are resuming to their previous duties, however some titles and responsibilities have been updated. 

"I think we want to be a lot more versatile. We want to be a lot more expanded across all programs," he said. 

Other staff will start next Monday. Riley said some other former ServiCom employees are still in talks with the company or are working at another call centre.

Chauncey Sullivan said she's glad to be back helping callers. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Marlowe's company MCI Canada said earlier this week that if hired over the next month, workers with call centre experience from the last 90 days will receive a $300 starting bonus, along with the base pay and vacation levels from their previous employers and benefits.

"It's a nice gesture just to say, 'Hey, we understand that everyone has gone through this. We want to do a little bit but we want to do a lot more heading into 2019,'" Riley said. 

He expects that will include more daily incentives and more lucrative incentives and increased bonus plans.

Most former ServiCom employees have returned to work. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Marlowe told CBC the company has applied for payroll rebates through Nova Scotia Business Inc. 

The starting wage for newly hired workers will increase to $12 per hour from $11 per hour, the current minimum wage.

All work programs will restart by Jan. 14, and the company is still accepting applications.

MCI had been in negotiations to buy the call centre in the weeks before ServiCom declared bankruptcy.  

Working on missed pay

Some employees still haven't been paid for hours they worked before the abrupt closure on Dec. 6.

Riley said the provincial Department of Labour is working with human resources to complete payroll registries that were incomplete. 

"We had human resources along with a couple of other individuals here at the site go through the starting wages for each individual … so we're able to provide them with hours worked plus what the wage earned would have been," he said.

"Hopefully we'll hear something in the near future."

With files from Information Morning in Sydney, Brett Ruskin and the Canadian Press

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