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Transcom says minimum wage not behind Barrie call centre closure

Effort to 'improve service' means nearly 300 people out of work. Some may be able to transition to working from home
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One of Barrie’s most staffed companies is shutting its doors, putting close to 300 employees out of work.

Customer service centre Transcom announced it is closing its two Ontario on-site locations in Brockville and Barrie. The Brockville branch will close March 22, leaving approximately 80 people out of a job while the 110 Dunlop Street branch houses 280 people who will need to find other work when the doors close on April 10.

Transcom deals with in-coming calls from customers from the financial and retail services. While the first instinct was to blame the recent minimum wage increase, Transcom North American spokesperson Caroline Spivak said that is not the case. Rather a change in ownership with a different plan and technological changes in business are behind the move.

“The decision to make this call was not due to Ontario’s minimum wage increase but due to the fact that the company went from public to private and new ownership needed to improve service,” said Spivak. “Now, that said, anytime new ownership takes control there are full reviews of any of the area’s financial situations and that would have been noticed; but the call was being made despite that and in fact what most people don’t know is that work-at-home agents are actually paid more than on-site agents; so the minimum wage increase did not have a direct effect on this decision.”

The Transcom office opened in 2013 and actually expanded three years later to house more employees. A November 7 2017 post on the local branch’s Facebook page announced that they were hiring a bilingual agent for full-time work at $14 an hour. That post was taken down early this afternoon. Spivak says a strong motive for the unfortunate situation is that business is changing and servicing customers is changing.

“We are seeing a generation coming up that prefers a different style of service and one that is more technologically sound,” said Spivak. “We now have people who want to communicate through text, chat or email and not on the phone. Technological advances will be a driver in all aspects of all businesses, but as of late the customer service centre industry is really seeing it as it is so heavily involved in communication with customers.”

The plan is for Transcom to move away from the typical brick and mortar workspace and use an offshore site in the Philippines to handle calls as well as allow some workers to apply to work from home, though the number of people that the at-home option will be available to will not be known until the company further reviews its plans but Spivak said all of the current employees will be given a fair chance at job postings. 

The building falls in the downtown area which leaves Ward 2 councillor Rose Romita stunned and sad for the employees who were caught off-guard and is hopeful that not only those people will be able to be moved within the company, but that the building itself finds new life.

“I just heard and that’s very unfortunate news,” said Romita. “Apparently March 31st is services ending date, but they are offering some people work at home. They’re also closing one US location and the Brockville Ontario call centre. That is a fair size location and had been empty for a long time. Maybe Georgian College can utilize it for its Arts Program, but the city doesn’t own that building so it would be up to the landlord really.”

Last week was the final day of work for about 130 workers at the Sears Canada in the Georgian Mall and the location on the south end. The next City Of Barrie Community Job Fair, which is organized by Employment Ontario, will be sometime in March with a date to be determined.




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