Iowa businessman confirms revival of Cape Breton call centre that laid off 600

SYDNEY, N.S. — An Iowa-based businessman has confirmed he’s purchased a Cape Breton call centre that laid off hundreds of workers just weeks before Christmas.

Anthony Marlowe of Marlowe Companies Inc. says in a text message to The Canadian Press that the lawyer for the debtors of ServiCom Canada has confirmed the deal is complete.

He says to tell the hundreds of Cape Breton call centre workers who were laid off that the ”place is theirs again.”

On Dec. 6, ServiCom Canada told its 600 employees in Sydney, N.S., it was closing, leaving employees without their last paycheques.

Marlowe offered $1.5-million for the idled call centre this week, outbidding two other interested buyers in an auction that was part of bankruptcy proceedings in the United States.

He travelled to the region and met with workers on Thursday.

“Congratulations to all of the renewed and refreshed workers at The Sydney Call Centre, Inc.,” the new owner wrote in a text, confirming the new name of the revived business.

“We’re proud to be part of your family and thank you very much for the classiest of warm welcomes.”

The sale comes as a relief to many in the community, as the island has suffered from chronic levels of high unemployment, and the laid-off workers had few options after losing their positions at the call centre.

Since the layoffs, the community has banded together to raise money for the workers, with donations flooding in and the Salvation Army providing food and payments for home heating oil and electricity bills.

Most of the workers were owed about four weeks in back pay when the call centre abruptly shuttered, a liability that Marlowe’s company said rests with ServiCom.

Workers have told The Canadian Press that while the sale is welcome news for the community and the regional economy, the failure to pay workers their last weeks of salary has meant many are owed thousands of dollars.

Some laid-off workers who have qualified for employment insurance have said they may go back to school or pursue training rather than return to the call centre.

Others have said they’re struggling to pay their regular bills.

MCI Canada has already said the call centre expects to reopen as early as Jan. 2, 2019 under its new name. The company had said earlier that MCI will enter a nine-year lease for the shuttered facility.

Marlowe said it was clear that the bankruptcy proceedings in the United States were unlikely to produce any money for the workers. He said his company would offer sign-on and retention bonuses, but no figures were mentioned.

Marlowe also suggested in his text that one of the managers buy every employee a beer and send Marlowe the bill.

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