An outpouring of grief followed news that TeleTech plans to lay off about 470 staff at its Orillia call centre by the end of July due to the loss of its main client.
“Some people were beside themselves,” recalled employee Brenda Capsticks. “Some people were having anxiety attacks, some people were breaking down crying.”
Other staff approached by Orillia Today declined to speak on the record, but acknowledged the Tuesday announcement had come as a blow.
“It’s an emotional time,” said one during a smoke break.
“A shock,” was how another described the news.
Still others refused to comment, waving away a reporter while heading to their cars.
“I’m not going to answer any questions,” one individual said bluntly. “You’ll have to talk to the site director.”
Mayor Ron Stevens learned of the coming job cuts during a call from the company’s Denver, Co. headquarters on Tuesday morning.
He said that, as of the end of July, the call centre would no longer be fielding calls on behalf of its current client, which “will be leaving and relocated.
“They have also informed us that they have a temporary client in there for awhile to pick up some of the slack, and they are hoping to expand it into a much longer contract,” he said.
TeleTech is in talks with a large company in the hope of securing new work for the Orillia operation, he said.
“Hopefully, they are successful in their negotiations,” Stevens added. “If they are, that client will be moved into that Orillia centre.”
Stevens said he was told 472 people would lose their jobs at the end of July.
“There will be roughly 140 left,” he said.
Capsticks said she was one of a group of employees who in February began answering calls on behalf of the temporary client referred to by Stevens.
“I am very optimistic they will renew their contract for another six months,” she said, noting that the company avoided earlier layoffs by securing the temporary client.
Capsticks is equally hopeful that management will secure more work and avoid the massive layoff currently planned.
“I have every faith that (the site director) will get another client in TeleTech by the 31st of July,” she added.
Site director Trevor Forrester said staff were “very supportive” upon learning of the coming job losses and the effort to recruit a new client.
He said the company is “aggressively” pursuing clients in the hope of retaining jobs at the facility on Hunter Valley Road.
“I am glad that (staff) have a lot of hope, and I have a lot of hope as well,” he said. “I know that the corporate team is looking out for our interests and planning on keeping us open (by attracting another client).”
The company’s sales team would present potential clients, with Forrester helping to determine whether “they fit in with the timeline.
“(Can they start) soon enough?” he said.
A hundred employees are currently working for the temporary client, and company officials say that figure could double by the end of this month.
“Those numbers are fluid,” Forrester said.
“They have every intention of trying to keep that centre open. They have a very high opinion of the people who work there. It is just an unfortunate situation that they are hoping to be able to resolve by having another client. They feel very hopeful that they can make this happen.”
Stevens attributed the coming job losses to the economic downturn.
“Like any other corporation, their client is an American-based company, and their economy is in pretty dire straits,” he added.
Stevens said he does not regret council’s decision to give TeleTech a break on leasing costs for the city-owned building that houses the local operation.
“Absolutely not,” he added. “I am not going to say that is the end of TeleTech in Orillia. I am very hopeful they will be able to negotiate this thing.”