Hundreds lose jobs as N.B. call centres close

News source from CTV News

A promise to create hundreds of jobs has taken an unexpected turn, with the layoffs of hundreds of employees in two New Brunswick communities.

The doors are now locked at the S&P Data call centres in Saint John and Edmunston, where a total of 245 people had been working until Friday.

One year ago, it was a very different scene. On March 28, 2018, then Premier Brian Gallant was on hand to congratulate the company and the workers, whose number was expected to grow to 450 employees at its Saint John location.

At the time, Gallant did suggest that there were no guarantees.

“When we work on ten files, we’re going to have seven, eight, nine of them deliver, but we’re going to have, once in a while, a file that doesn’t work out,” said Gallant.

A year later, it appears S&P call centres didn’t work out.

“In this particular case, the company lost a contract that it wasn’t anticipating losing,” says Glen Savoie, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Saint John East. “My understanding is that they’re laying off the workers, and with the idea that they’re trying to regain the contract, or renegotiate or win another contract.”

It’s not the first time an N.B. government supported call centre hasn’t worked out at that same Loch Lomond Place location. The building was the site of the Sears Call Centre, which also lasted less than a year before shutting its doors.

Opportunities New Brunswick, the province’s economic development agency is among those assessing the loss.

“ONB was disappointed to learn that due to the loss of a major telecommunications contract, S&P Data has laid off employees at both of its New Brunswick locations,” said ONB spokesperson Jim Hennessy in a written statement to CTV Atlantic.

S&P was supposed to receive millions of dollars in assistance from the agency, but in the end, received a fraction of that.

“ONB has advanced $584,000 of the $5,235,000 committed to S&P under the terms of the two agreements,” added Hennessy.

Nevertheless, the MLA for the area says a review is warranted.

“Whenever taxpayer dollars are involved, you always have to a bit of a look under the hood, to make sure you understand how everything rolled out and what got you to this moment,” says Glen Savoie.

Government officials say there are hundreds of call centre and I.T. jobs that are currently unfilled in the Greater Saint John area, and there are plans to hold a job fair net week to try to connect those vacant positions with the people who have just lost their jobs.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.

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