Last Tuesday, 300 employees at the Convergys call centre in Cornwallis received the bad news.
Their employer — in the euphemistic speak favoured by companies delivering bad news everywhere — had decided to “transition” their jobs elsewhere “to better serve its clients by increasing efficiencies and reducing costs.”
They had been fired.
The reason: A six-year government payroll rebate program that initially lured the company to set up shop in Cornwallis had run out. Convergys, whose Nova Scotia call centres have generated $15 million in taxpayer-provided rebates for the company, also closed its Truro-Millbrook centre earlier this year when its rebate deal there expired.
Convergys is not alone. Another call centre, run by TeleTech and lured to Nova Sciotia with $11.8 million under the same much-touted government scheme in 2005, shut down in Amherst earlier this month, turfing 215 more workers onto the street.
Despite that, Contact Centre Nova Scotia, an industry-promoting association, insists its industry isn’t “drying up and blowing away” and “remains viable for Nova Scotia.”
Consider: On the day before Cornwallis workers got their Convergys Christmas present, the company’s Philippines’ unit bragged it had reached its year’s target: 13 call centres and 23,000 employees.
This weekend, Convergys added to those numbers during a three-day job fair at Shakey’s Restaurant in Tacloban City. “Transitioning,” anyone?
The Philippines, in fact, is now “the call centre capital of the world,” having displaced India as the non-union, cheap-labour country of choice for runaway call centre companies.
Runaway? Though Convergys is a Cinncinati-based transnational, its tentacles reach to wherever there’s a government willing to do a deal.
On Friday, Convergys announced — “just in time for the holidays” — it is “seeking candidates for 60 full- and part-time positions” at its call centre in Logan, Utah.
More Cornwallis jobs?
More sweet subsidies?
During the last 20 years, provincial governments have pitched Nova Scotia as — in the words of former premier Rodney MacDonald — “one of the most business-friendly places in the world.”
What that generally meant was — in the interests of new job announcement photo-ops — our governments were willing to pay companies they knew wouldn’t stay to create jobs they knew wouldn’t last.
That’s no way to run a province.