News : Company with Checkered Past Slated to Open Call Center Next Year
McAllen, TX Oct 13, 2014 -- Dialing any 1-800 number for help may connect you to one of the nearly 8,000 customer call center representatives across 20 locations in the Rio Grande Valley, according to a local workforce agency, but it’s unclear if those jobs are here to stay.
There are six centers in McAllen alone, and out of the 1,000 jobs recently promised by the McAllen Economic Development Corp. more than half of those are slated to come from a future center run by TeleTech, a Colorado-based company.
"The center will officially open its doors in the first quarter of 2015, and will initially create more than 200 jobs in the surrounding area with the ability to expand up to 600 positions," TeleTech spokeswoman Elizabeth Grice said in a statement, but declined an interview for this story.
Yet, those jobs have been flighty in the past and some TeleTech locations in West Virginia and Ohio have cut staff by the hundreds once contracts lapse.
Massive layoffs of 260 workers at a call center in Moundsville, West Virginia, were announced in 2013. In Amherst, Ohio, TeleTech announced plans to close a call center that employed 585 workers in 2010, but saved 400 jobs after the outside contract was renewed. But in 2014, another 200 jobs were sliced from that same center due to "operational changes within the clients’ business" as the company told Ohio-based newspaper, The Morning Journal, in March.
TeleTech was also hit with a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in August, which claimed that an estimated 1,500 TeleTech employees were affected by allegations of wage theft over a three-year period. The lawsuit cites the company’s refusal to pay overtime, and other labor law violations when employees of the TeleTech@Home branch were not paid for the time it takes for computers to boot up and shut down.
A similar lawsuit filed in 2004 against TeleTech that represented more than 900 on-site employees from multiple call centers sat in litigation for years. The lawsuit went into arbitration in 2007 and the court case closed in 2010, but the settlement amount was undisclosed.
Court documents revealed claims of various off-the-clock but on-site duties such as waiting for daily seat assignments, booting up and shutting down computers, in addition to being forced to work through breaks and lunch periods by supervisors.
TeleTech recently filed for a renovation of the former 35,000 square-foot Steinmart building on 1812 S. 16th St. for new offices. Trainers are now being hired for this spring, according to their website.
The company also anticipates hiring customer service representatives, team leaders, recruiters, technical assistance, information technology specialists, operations managers and facilities staff.
Over the past 18 months, TeleTech has opened eight new centers across the country from Arkansas to Florida and boasts 3,000 jobs among them.
Local economic development leaders said they stand by the opportunity for economic incentives for call centers because the jobs are a stepping-stone for many individuals.
"For the kids that are graduating from a family that maybe can’t afford to send them to college, this gives them an opportunity to get a job, work, and also have their college paid for by the company," said Keith Patridge, CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corp., about TeleTech’s tuition reimbursement program.
Others say call centers are misunderstood by the general public, and are quality jobs.
"A lot of people have these stereotypes that call centers are collection agencies that call you at dinner time," said Mike Willis, director of business services at Workforce Solutions of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, a local branch of the Texas Workforce Commission.
But upwards of 90 percent of the work are inbound customer service calls and range from company-owned to contract-based centers in the Valley, Willis said. The sector is also expanding with Qualfon, a Colorado-based company, which is set to open a call center in Harlingen this fall with around 500 jobs expected.
Willis said the shift from overseas operations back to U.S. soil is a business trend due to consumer complaints of language barriers and foreign accents.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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TeleTech is a geographically diverse global providers of technology-enabled business process outsourcing solutions. TeleTech and its subsidiaries have a 28-year history of designing, implementing, and managing critical business processes for Global 1000 companies to help them improve their customers' experience, expand their strategic capabilities, and increase their operating efficiencies. By delivering a high-quality customer experience through the effective integration of customer-facing front-office processes with internal back-office processes, we enable our clients to better serve, grow, and retain their customer base.
Published: Tuesday, October 14, 2014