AMHERST – A call centre that’s closing downtown has delayed its departure.
Thing5 told its employees Thursday the centre will remain open until Dec. 17, according to employees who attended a private meeting with Moncton-based human resources personnel.
“It’s a little bit of good news,” said a woman heading home from the meeting on foot.
She liked the job, she said, and is disappointed the site is closing.
“It’s a little disheartening,” she said. She doesn’t think there’s a lot of work available in Amherst.
Opinions were traded outside the centre in the wake of the HR meeting. One view expressed was that the company wasn’t legally allowed to let them go after just two weeks – not without paying a further six weeks severance. But eight weeks notice (eight weeks of work) would allow the company to dismiss them without paying severance.
Two people, a man and a woman – identified as HR personnel from Moncton by an employee on the scene – refused to comment as they walked from the building to their separate cars.
It was the belief of an employee standing outside the building that labour standards dictated employers of 10 to 100 workers must give a combination of eight weeks employment and/or severance to employees.
“Our benefits do end on Dec. 31,” she said.
The abruptness of the closure came as a surprise, although she acknowledged there were warning signs.
“We’ve lost a lot of people,” she said.
She doesn’t know what she’ll do now.
“I actually liked (the job),” she said.
The reason she said they were given for the closure is that the “company’s going in a different direction.”
“I’m almost ready to retire…this sucks,” she said.
A rumour at the entrance to the centre was that the company is relocating business south of the border. At least one employee alleged the company will receive government grants to cover wages for the first 90 days at the new American site.
A phone call was made to Thing5 to confirm the veracity of claims made by employees. A person was reached but no comment was offered in time for inclusion in this article.
A spokesperson for the Department of Labour was contacted but could not supply confirmation of labour standards by press time.
A late-arriving email from the Department of Labour would seem to indicate employees may be mistaken about the eight-week requirement. Based on quick details provided by this newspaper - which may not have captured all of the details pertaining to this specific case - notice requirements are as follows:
"If the employee has worked for:
3 months or more but less than 2 years – the employer must give 1 week notice.
2 years or more but less than 5 years – the employer must give 2 weeks.
5 years or more but less than 10 years – the employer must give 4 weeks.
10 years or more - the employer must give 8 weeks.
If the employer does not want to give the employee notice, the employer must give the employee pay in lieu of (in place of) notice. This means that the employer must pay the employee as much pay as he/she would receive if he/she worked during the notice period."