News Local

Teletech to lay off 472

By Nathan Taylor, Orillia Packet & Times

Layoff notices have been issued to nearly 80% of TeleTech's Orillia workforce.

Of the call centre's 591 local employees, 472 are expected to be out of work July 31.

The layoff notices, delivered yesterday, are a result of one of the Orillia facility's two clients shutting down, said Tim Hinds, executive director of human capital.

Speaking on the phone from the company's corporate headquarters in Denver, Colo., Hinds said, "One of our clients there is going to be shutting down in terms of the support that we provide."

He would not divulge the name of the client or the reason for its closure.

TeleTech is "actively seeking new business to replace the work that's lost," Hinds said, but added there are no assurances it will be replaced.

If new business is found and more employees are required, the laid-off employees will get first crack at the jobs, Hinds said.

"We would immediately go back to this existing population of affected employees to call back," he said.

The facility is not closing, he stressed.

Doug Downey, president of the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce, was shocked to hear the news.

"It's going to create a challenge. It'll have an impact on the local economy," he said. "It has a huge impact on individual families and what they're able to consume."

As is the case with most layoffs, businesses and others in the community will feel the effects, he said.

Mayor Ron Stevens said there have been rumours "for some time with respect to cutbacks with the client."

Stevens, who chairs the city's economic development committee, fingered the tough economic times as the likely cause. During such times, unfortunately, "nothing comes as a surprise," he said.

Both Stevens and Downey expressed concern over the number of employees receiving notices, especially following the recent closure of the Huronia Regional Centre, which resulted in the loss of more than 700 jobs since the government announced the shutdown in the fall of 2004.

Stevens said he spoke yesterday with a TeleTech official in Denver and was told the company is in negotiations with a prospective client.

"We're very hopeful that TeleTech will be successful in negotiations with their (prospective) client and that all will be well," Stevens said.

Hinds would not confirm whether the company was in negotiations with a prospective client.

"The bottom line is they want to... keep the Orillia centre operational," Stevens said. "I have every confidence that they will do just that."

If TeleTech were to vacate the city-owned, seven-year-old building on Hunter Valley Road, "there are certain compensation levels that are in the lease," Stevens said. The city built the 44,000-square-foot building in 2002 for about $3 million.

But, he said, that scenario is not on his mind.

"It's been a good partnership to date and we hope that it will continue," he said.

Although there would be only 119 employees after the layoffs, Hinds said he wasn't aware of any plans to seek a new facility.

"Typically, what we would do is continue to seek new business to go into there," he said.

If TeleTech can land a new client before July 31, the layoffs might not be necessary, he said, again noting there can be no assurances.

"If we were to be able to bring new business in there prior to (July 31), that's how it would play out," he said.

Providing notice to the employees was "a business decision" and had nothing to do with performance, he said.

"We never like to have to make these announcements in our business because we value our employees," Hinds said. "We're going to work feverishly to sell new business into that facility."

TeleTech operates globally, employing 55,000 people. Its Orillia location is a service delivery centre, providing over-the-phone support for "a large Fortune 500 company," Hinds said.

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