Prospects exist for an unnamed buyer to reopen the ServiCom Canada facility in Sydney in the New Year. (Photo by Contributed)

‘We’re going to have a deal very soon’: Staff briefed on possible ServiCom buyer

SYDNEY, N.S. — The sudden closure of a Cape Breton call centre continued to reverberate Monday, with about 450 former employees briefed on a potential buyer — and sympathetic members of the public warned to be careful about where they send their donations.

“We haven’t really authorized or endorsed anyone to do fundraising for us,” said Tanya Wilneff, a former manager at the ServiCom Canada facility in Sydney.

Wilneff said Monday she had spotted at least six GoFundMe sites that purported to be raising money for the almost 700 ServiCom employees — all of whom lost their jobs last Thursday as part of a bankruptcy protection process involving the company’s U.S. parent.

The sites may have been set up by well-meaning people, but it is often difficult to tell if they are legitimate, said Wilneff, a former human resources manager who worked at the centre for 15 years.

Later in the day, many former employees gathered for a meeting in Sydney, where they learned about short-term assistance from the provincial and federal governments, as well as the prospects for an unnamed buyer to reopen the facility in the New Year.

Todd Riley, the call centre’s former director, said a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday between the U.S. judge handling the bankruptcy proceedings and the parent company’s creditors, as well as the potential buyer.

“We truly believe we’re going to have a deal in principle very, very soon,” he said.

Cecil Clarke, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, and Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan have both indicated the centre was in the process of being sold when the bankruptcy proceedings interrupted the sale.

MacLellan, who attended Monday’s meeting, repeated his claim that a buyer is keen to reopen the call centre early in the new year.

He said the sale can’t go ahead until the American judge completes bankruptcy proceedings.

“There’s nothing (stopping the sale), from my perspective,” he said after the meeting. ”There’s no show-stoppers.”

The cabinet minister, who represents a Cape Breton district, said the potential buyer represents a “committed group who want to stay at this site for a long time.”

MacLellan said representatives from key government departments, including Employment Nova Scotia, were on hand at the meeting to discuss what the government has to offer the workers.

“There was concern and sadness in the room,” he said. “But people are very positive (because) they understand that options are available … (And) the magnitude of reaction from people looking to give money and donate to these workers has been incredible. It’s sort of what we do in Cape Breton.”

Riley said the former employees decided Monday to set up a employee-management committee devoted to fundraising.

“We do not want anybody setting up a fraudulent account to reap benefits from this situation,” he said after the meeting. “We’ll focus on one account that we will put out there.”

Wilneff said she and her colleagues have been stunned by the outpouring of help from friends and neighbours.

“It’s been overwhelming, the amount of people who have been supporting us,” she said, her words trailing off as she drew a deep breath to maintain her composure. ”I get a bit emotional talking about it.”

In particular, she said volunteers at the local food bank — operated by the Salvation Army — have stepped up to make sure every former ServiCom employee has enough provisions to make it through the holiday season.

As well, a local pizza joint — Alexandra’s Pizza in Sydney — has handed out $3,000 in gift cards, she said.

“Every day, there’s somebody calling to ask about making a donation,” Wilneff said, adding that her former colleagues include married couples and single parents who are now without work on an island where the jobless rate is hovering around 15 per cent.

“People are being generous, and I don’t even think they understand what a huge impact it is having on our employees.”

ServiCom provided customer support to major firms, such as OnStar Corp., a subsidiary of General Motors, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, AT&T Inc. and Allstate Insurance company.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

ATA president ‘demands’ to meet with education minister to discuss re-entry plan

The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association is “demanding” to meet with… Continue reading

‘School plan is not sufficient for children with diverse needs’: Rally to be held in Red Deer Tuesday

People who are concerned about the province’s return-to-school plan will rally in… Continue reading

‘So sorry,’ says driver guilty of gas-and-dash death

Mitchell Robert Sydlowski was charged with second-degree murder, but the 29-year old pleaded guilty to the lesser offence

Cast your votes for Best of Red Deer

The Advocate’s Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are back. Community… Continue reading

Raffle will enhance lives of region’s women and girls

The Red Deer and District Community Foundation is hoping central Alberta can… Continue reading

‘Why not us?’: Asylum seekers on COVID-19 front lines demand permanent residency

MONTREAL — Doll Jean Frejus Nguessan Bi says he couldn’t sleep at… Continue reading

More people ill from Salmonella, ate onions from U.S.: Public Health Agency

The Public Health Agency of Canada says 100 more people have become… Continue reading

Ventilator supply starts to increase as Tam warns of possible surge of COVID-19

OTTAWA — Only a small fraction of the 40,000 new ventilators Canada… Continue reading

‘Don’t let this happen to anyone else’: families seek change to border rules

OTTAWA — “Please don’t let this happen to anyone else.” That’s what… Continue reading

New Zealand’s wizard says time spent in Canada in 1952 was ‘a great lesson’

Long before he became The Wizard of New Zealand, Ian Brackenbury Channell… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $20 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $20 million jackpot… Continue reading

Most Read