MONTAGUE — It was devasting news for Montague Mayor Richard Collins.
Collins received a call from a company spokesman Tuesday apologizing for the pending closure of the HGS Canada call centre in his eastern P.E.I. town.
The move will throw 65 people out of work.
The employees were handed pink slips Tuesday and notified the Brook Street operation will close March 4.
“It’s a shock to the system, so unexpected,” said Collins.
“I’m feeling bad for those who will be without work in difficult times right now at this time of the year.”
A spokesperson for the global operation said every effort will be made to help each individual find comparable employment at another HGS Canada location or within the community.
“The limited labour market size has not allowed us to produce the scale that the business requires to be sustainable,” said Joanne Morrison of HGS North America. “This critical fact, multiplied by the challenges in the Canadian economic climate, has made this decision necessary.”
Employees arriving for the Tuesday morning shift at the centre declined to respond to questions about the future of the operation as they quickly moved inside from the cold winds.
The call centre had grown substantially over the past number of years and even announced an expansion of 30 more jobs last July, which pushed levels to 120 workers. However, a former manager, now working elsewhere and asking not to be identified, said maintaining a full complement of staff was difficult.
“(HGS) likes to have centres with a strong employment level, and we just couldn’t compete at our little site,’’ she said. “You could see what was happening last fall.”
The former manager said the closure is unfortunate since the Montague centre has earned top performance awards out of all the sites in Canada.
“It’s a job that people have to work hard at being nice to customers that are not so nice, and agents are expected to work year round with little missed time. That’s not an easy task for some people.”
The former employee said the employment ranks, once a bustling 150, had dwindled to only about 50 agents now with about 15 support staff. The call centre, originally set up by On-Line Support, opened in 2002 and has a banner outside the front door noting wages of $12.50 an hour.
Collins said company representatives felt bad about the closure and want to make sure people find other jobs.
“But they said there just weren’t enough agents.”