AMHERST – Nearly a year after opening in the former Co-op location downtown, Thing 5 is closing its Amherst call centre.
Approximately 20 employees will be impacted by the closure. The call centre will close Nov. 5.
"Everyone is just devastated. There was no indication this was going to happen," an employee, who asked not to be identified, said Tuesday. "The timing is terrible. We're all losing our jobs just before Christmas and it takes four to six weeks to get unemployment."
The employee said a number of people at Thing5 left or turned down other jobs because they were assured everything was OK.
She said officials from the company's Moncton office showed up just after 4 p.m. on Monday and gathered the employees together to break the news.
"They said it had nothing to do with performance, it's just the company is going in a different direction," she said. "I'm going to miss it here because it wasn't a bad place to work."
Virtual Agent Services, which merged with Thing5, announced it the opening of the call centre last December. It planned to hire 170 people over five years and was to receive a $1.2-million payroll rebate from Nova Scotia Business Inc.
The call centre handled calls for La Quinta hotels out of the United States.
Amherst Mayor Robert Small said he was notified this morning of the closure. He's very disappointed and surprised with the announcement.
"When they opened they had indicated they were very happy to be in Amherst and were looking forward to a long relationship with the community," Small said. "It's my understanding that Thing5 changed its business model after merging with VAS and a lot of the senior management were changed."
Small said he will be contacting Cumberland North MLA Brian Skabar and NSBI to see if there's anything that can be done to replace the jobs.
"Every job we lose in the downtown is bad news. We need to keep every job we have in the downtown," Small said. "We've lost the maintenance enforcement jobs and we're going to lose the jobs at the jail. We need government to help us replace some of the jobs we're losing."
The closures comes nearly two years after TeleTech Holdings closed its Amherst call centre putting more than 200 off the job.
Small said the town's other call centre, Advantage Communications, has indicated it is willing to hire those working at Thing 5.
Officials from Thing5 could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.