The community is coming together to help the nearly 700 ServiCom employees in Sydney, N.S., who lost their jobs after the company suddenly announced its closure just three weeks before Christmas.
The call centre told employees at a meeting Thursday that it was closing immediately, following weeks of pay delays and a bankruptcy protection filing by its parent company in the United States.
Workers say they were “blindsided” because they had previously been promised bonuses and pay incentives.
“I am devastated, to say the very least. It was definitely not what I expected,” former employee Kayla Williams told the Canadian Press. “I want to be able put oil in my tank. I want to be able to put groceries in my cupboard. I have two children here.”
The call centre was a major employer in Sydney, and many in the community are affected by its closure.
Business owners Jessica Strople and Mac Burton decided to help out by holding a fundraiser at their bar, The Cave.
“Cape Bretoners really stick together, and I think this is the time that people need to stand up and stand together and make sure these families get by, especially right before the holidays,” said Strople.
The bar, which normally doesn’t charge a cover charge, will be collecting $5 from patrons on Friday through Sunday. Strople says all money raised will go to former ServiCom employees, who have been messaging her through the bar’s Facebook page.
“I promised people that messaged that I would do everything I possibly could,” she said.
“These are people like single moms, single dads, families with one income, families with multiple children that haven’t bought anything for Christmas. They went into the room expecting to be paid or get some answers about their pay and they found out not only are they not going to get any pay, they don’t have a job anymore.”
Strople says she’s encouraging others to join in fundraising.
“This is another business, a really big business, that was supporting a lot of Cape Bretoners that has closed,” she said.
“It’s time other businesses step up to the plate and help the community that helps them.”
Other fundraising campaigns and offers of help were coming out in the hours after the sudden closure.
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The Salvation Army Sydney Community Church said on Facebook that it planned to open its food bank Thursday afternoon to all laid-off ServiCom employees.
The church is also launching a Christmas assistance program next week and is asking the community to donate non-perishables to its food bank or to make financial contributions to its Christmas Kettle Campaign.
Meanwhile, the province’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education has sent out a tweet, encouraging former employees to register with an NS Works centre if they would like help in finding new employment.
—With a file from the Canadian Press