News : Funding for Nordia Call Centre Jobs Raises Questions
Moncton, NB, Canada, Sept 14, 2015 -- There's an unexpected complication in what's otherwise a good news jobs story for the Gallant government.
Officials with Nordia Inc. say they need to sort out with Opportunities New Brunswick whether job creation rebates will apply to the people they plan to hire from a call centre that's shutting down.
"We need to sit down and figure out how to interpret this," says Nordia spokesperson Philip van Leeuwen.
"We need to have discussions with Opportunities New Brunswick to figure out the status of that."
Nordia took part in two job announcements with Opportunities New Brunswick in two days last week for a total of 405 jobs in Moncton and Saint John.
Nordia has committed to offer jobs in Moncton to the more than 250 employees facing layoffs at the Sykes Enterprises Inc. call centre in Riverview, which will close before the end of the year.
But whether those jobs should be among those subsidized by the provincial government's rebates isn't clear.
The Riverview jobs have already been subsidized once, by a $8,000-per-job loan guarantee the provincial government gave to ICT Group Inc. in 2008. Sykes bought ICT two years later and took over the call centre.
Nordia signed its agreement with Opportunities New Brunswick in the spring, before Sykes announced it was closing.
The agreement promises a total of $853,000 in rebates for 275 jobs in Moncton and 130 positions in Saint John.
But the provincial government has repeatedly emphasized that it funds the creation of new jobs — a line it repeated at this week's two Nordia announcements.
"The payroll rebate will only be given once the job is actually created," Premier Brian Gallant said on Friday.
"The job will have to be created first."
While the 275 positions in Moncton are clearly "new" from Nordia's point of view, filling them with people leaving previously-subsidized Sykes jobs would mean no net gain of employment.
Van Leeuwen suggested it would make sense for Nordia to get the rebate even if some of the "new" jobs it creates in Moncton are filled with recruits from Sykes.
Otherwise, he said, Nordia would have a greater incentive to turn away all the Sykes employees to ensure it received the rebate.
"That just doesn't make sense," he said.
He emphasized the company would be hiring 275 people in Moncton even if Sykes wasn't closing.
Nordia and the provincial government agreed to the number in the spring, before Sykes announced it was closing, but only got around to announcing it last week.
The confusion doesn't exist for the 130 positions Nordia is creating in Saint John this year, because those are unambiguously new positions that will have been created since the start of 2015, van Leeuwen said.
Carolyn McCormack of Opportunities New Brunswick says the Crown corporation's rebate agreement with Nordia is for 405 "newly-created" jobs in Moncton and Saint John from 2015 to 2017.
"The agreement is only for the 405," she said.
Company hopes to add jobs
But Nordia is "hoping to go beyond that" with even more hirings, she said, which would mean Nordia might get all its rebates for other hires and still take on the Sykes employees.
She was not able to clarify on Friday afternoon whether a job filled by a Sykes employee would count as a newly-created, rebate-eligible position.
Van Leeuwen said Nordia has made offers to all 285 agents working at Sykes and to some of the 40 management and support staff. All but one of the agents has said yes.
But because Sykes is only winding down operations during October and November, "someone may say today they're coming, and in a month's time they may find another job."
Regardless of how the rebate is sorted out, van Leeuwen says the company is bullish on its future growth in New Brunswick.
While it plans to hit 400 jobs in Saint John by the end of this year, the company, which provides services for Bell Aliant, has the capacity for 620 employees in that city and it's confident it will hit that mark, he said.
"We're a little bit different" than some of the call-centre companies that come and go, he said.
"We have long-term contracts and we have a very stable customer base."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Nordia is a Canadian provider of customer service solutions and has been in the telecommunications sector since 1999. Nordia operates 13 centres in B.C, Ontario, Quebec, and New-Brunswick and provides a wide range of support to help customers get the most out of their services and resolve issues. Nordia prides itself on attracting and retaining top talent, providing a stimulating and rewarding environment for employees and offering among the most competitive total compensation in the industry. In a recent survey, 82% of Nordia employees said they would recommend Nordia as an employer to their friends and family.
Published: Wednesday, September 16, 2015