N.S. call centre rehires nearly 500 with added benefits, plans to grow workforce

SYDNEY, N.S. — A Cape Breton call centre that abruptly shut down last month, tossing hundreds of people out of work, has hired back more than 90 per cent of its workforce, offering enhanced benefits and increasing entry-level wages.

The Sydney Call Centre Inc. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday to thank the community and celebrate its official reboot — and the new company’s first payday.

Owner Anthony Marlowe said about 480 workers have returned to the operation after being laid off by the previous owner of the facility, and there are plans to further expand the call centre.

“This quite possibly could be the world’s greatest telemarketing centre,” said the Iowa-based businessman, adding that it may add training capacity to accelerate the addition of new workers.

Marlowe said he was met with applause Friday after workers cashed their first pay cheques in several weeks.

He said the company now provides workers with free medical and dental benefits as well as life insurance, which he calls a small investment in the health and well-being of the loyal and dedicated workforce.

“We take care of our workers,” said Marlowe, the head of Marlowe Companies Inc. — the parent company of the call centre and several other related businesses.

Tanya Wilneff, director of people support at the call centre, said the company has received a “solid flow of resumes” — a stack which now sits at around 400.

“We’ve seen so much loyalty and we have a lot of potential for growth,” she said. ”The sky is the limit for us.”

Marlowe said the call centre retained all of its major clients despite the bankruptcy proceedings, and plans to add 50 full-time equivalent positions by spring.

Shauna Graham, director of operations for the call centre, said the shocking layoffs weeks before Christmas made the workforce even stronger.

“At the worst of times, when it would have been so easy for everyone to throw in the towel and scatter, instead our work family of several hundred people rallied together and supported one another and helped lift one another up, even on the worst of days,” she said.

Graham said she’s heard numerous stories of employees helping other employees with groceries, home heating oil — even bringing diapers and formula to moms in need.

“It would have been very easy to give up but instead everybody remained very positive and stayed strong,” she said.

Dozens of local businesses, churches, unions, non-profit groups and individuals also pitched in to help workers before the call centre was reopened.

“They stepped up in unbelievable ways,” Marlowe said of the community support.

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