Nova Scotia

N.S. cabinet agrees to backdate $2.5M payroll rebate for Sydney Call Centre

The decision to backdate the rebate means the hundreds of former ServiCom employees who returned to their jobs count towards the new company's job creation targets, and qualify for taxpayer's money.

Backdating rebate means the almost 500 jobs created to date qualify for taxpayers' money

The former ServiCom call centre in Sydney, N.S., reopened last month as the Sydney Call Centre. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

The new owner of the former ServiCom call centre in Sydney, N.S., has qualified for a provincial payroll rebate retroactive to Jan. 2.

The rebate will start a month earlier than it was formally approved by the Nova Scotia cabinet. That means hundreds of former ServiCom employees who were rehired to work at the call centre under new ownership will count towards the commitment to hire up to 750 new employees, or their equivalent, over the next three years.

If the Sydney Call Centre meets all of its hiring targets, it will get almost $2.5 million in taxpayers' money through the Nova Scotia Business Inc. payroll rebate program.

To take full advantage of the rebate, the company must have between 325 to 425 employees this year, 375 to 475 next year, and 425 to 750 in 2021, said Anthony Marlowe, CEO of MCI, the call centre's new owner.

According to Marlowe, the company already has 498 employees.

If the business creates fewer than 750 jobs, it would get a smaller rebate.

In a series of email exchanges with CBC News, Marlowe confirmed the company discussed the possibility of a payroll rebate with the Nova Scotia government during pre-purchase negotiations.

"Leading up to the purchase we verified that we would be eligible, like any other new Nova Scotia business, to apply for a payroll rebate, which we did post purchase," wrote Marlowe.

"MCI had numerous contacts with the province and Nova Scotia Business Inc. starting in early December."

On Dec. 10, the cabinet minister responsible for NSBI, Geoff MacLellan, said a new buyer was interested in the just-shuttered operation but stated the potential new owner was not interested in obtaining any government funding for the purchase.

NSBI CEO Laurel Broten said the provincial Crown corporation "became engaged very actively by mid-December."

Sydney Call Centre owner Anthony Marlowe visits the site. (Holly Conners/CBC)

ServiCom call centre abruptly closed its doors Dec. 7 when it went bankrupt. Hundreds of employees found themselves without a job.

Marlowe, an Iowa businessman, bought the assets in an auction that was part of ServiCom's bankruptcy proceedings. On Jan. 2, he opened the Sydney Call Centre and rehired hundreds of former ServiCom employees.

Broten called the decision to ask cabinet to approve a backdated deal "very unique circumstances" but said it was necessary to ensure hundreds of jobs were safeguarded.

"I think there was such a collective desire to see people be hired quickly that that was important to the community, that was important to the workforce that we didn't want to be the prohibition of saying don't hire anybody," she said.

"Having a payroll come into the Sydney community of almost $50 million over the next three years, that's a lot of grocery stores, a lot of corner stores, a lot of financial means coming in to make a community strong and vibrant." 

About the Author

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

With files from Jennifer Ludlow

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