Convergys diverging: Don't pay us, we won't call you

On Tuesday, 300 employees at the Convergys call centre in Cornwallis got the bad news. Their employer—in the euphemistic-speak favoured by bad-news-delivering companies everywhere—had decided to “transition” their jobs elsewhere “to better serve its clients by increasing efficiencies and reducing costs.”

They’d been fired.


The reason: a six-year government payroll rebate program that initially lured the transnational company to set up shop in Cornwallis had run out. Convergys, whose Nova Scotia call centres have generated $15 million in taxpayer-provided rebates for the company, also closed its Truro-Millbrook centre earlier this year when its rebate deal there expired.

Convergys is not alone. Another call centre, run by TeleTech and lured to Nova Sciotia with $11.8 million under the same much-touted government scheme in 2005, shut down in Amherst earlier this month, turfing 215 more workers onto the street.

Despite that, Contact Centre Nova Scotia, an industry-promoting association, insists their industry isn’t “drying up and blowing away” and “remains viable for Nova Scotia.”


Consider: on the day before Cornwallis workers got their Convergys Christmas present, the company’s Philippines’ unit bragged it had reached its year’s target: 13 call centres and 23,000 employees. This weekend, Convergys further fluffed those numbers during a three-day job fair at Shakey’s Restaurant in Tacloban City. “Transitioning,” anyone?

The Philippines, in fact, is now “the call centre capital of the world,” having displaced India as the non-union, cheap-labour country of choice for runaway call centre companies.

Runaway? Though Convergys is a Cinncinati-based company, its tentacles reach to wherever there’s a government willing to do a deal.

On Friday, Convergys announced—“just in time for the holidays”—it is “seeking candidates for 60 full and part-time positions” at its call centre in Logan, Utah.

More Cornwallis jobs?

More sweeter subsidies?

During the last 20 years, provincial governments have pitched Nova Scotia as—in the words of former premier Rodney MacDonald—“one of the most business-friendly places in the world.”

What that generally meant was that,—in the interests of new job-announcement photo-ops—our governments were willing to pay companies they knew wouldn’t stay to create jobs they knew wouldn’t last.

That’s no way to run a province.




  1. as a cornwallis employee who was given the christmas present as well was also given the option to work from home. 2 weeks later was told that was also closing and those who have already moved to the work from home postings were being let go as well. we were also told
    there was no severance pay as they told us weeks ahead of time. it didn’t matter to them about their loyal employees working there 7 years, coming into work in really bad storms,
    doing overtime when they neeed us. close to 1000 jobs lost in total.


  2. The call centre fiascos pale in comparison to what the federal and provincial governments allowed to happen – or in some cases, encouraged to happen – to the telecommunications sector in Atlantic Canada. At one time, the 4 atlantic telephone companies employed people in almost every moderately sized community, were a vibrant part of the regional economy, partnered with the regional universities on many levels and were active engines for innovation and development in the Maritimes. Now we have Bell Aliant, which is nothing more than a cash cow run from boardrooms in Ontario. The travesties that occur are too innumberable to itemize here. One of the worst examples was the deal, forced by Bell Canada, that led to the exchange of our profitable digital cellular network for marginal landline operations in non-urban areas of Ontario and Quebec. The jobs lost from Convergys and other bottom-feeding call centres does not even approach the social and economic impact caused by the collapse of the Maritime telecommunications industry. It is a pity that when they had the chance, the premiers of the four provinces, as suggested by the then premier of NB did not band together, buy out Aliant and preserve a strategic regional resource. Stephen, you might consider this is a story worth telling.



    It NEVER works!!

    ….. but each time, it wastes MORE MILLIONS of taxpayer money!


  4. Just back from Tims and although most feel we have been taken hostage wrt call centre contracts … spending a billion dollars for a week-end party for the elite of the world in Upper Canada would have been better spent on call centres in all provinces. Strange how once the total picture is presented just how the landscape can change.


  5. What is the difference between a call centre government assist contract and a defence contract for helecoptors with multi billions in overuns and are 7 years late?

    One leader is gonzo and the other soon will have major majority win. Only in Canader eh.

    Merry Christmas


  6. Perhaps the call centres need to get creative like the movie business. The call centres get an initial wage subsidy, some contracts and then close. In the movie business each production is eligible for similar deals that we for some strange reason call “tax credits” even though little or no corporate tax is levied or paid – the credits being totally unrelated to income or profit. Movie companies create new companies for each production and get new “credits”. Call centres only dip once into the public treasury now if they “reformed” themselves for each contract…..


  7. Interesting indeed. Thank you.


  8. You may find this study presented at the 2009 Atlantic Canada Economics Association conference interesting. I came across it while researching the column . It’s a paper on the NS-NB experiences with call centres:


  9. New Brunswick has a business friendly reputation. Are they losing jobs in this sector too? Are they providing subsidies to attract call centers? Would be curious to see how they compare (or don’t compare).


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