It has been a tumultuous week for the 1,200 people who found themselves jobless Friday, July 15th.
IQT Solutions, a call centre for Bell customer service, shut down three Canadian sites, two in Quebec and one in Oshawa.
Employees came in assuming it to be an average workday. Those with morning shifts worked for an hour and a half, including some newly hired employees. At 10 a.m., computer systems went down.
Former employees Tracy Nott and Rebecca Holme recount their manager, Bob Brigaitis calling to his supervisors to get in his office, while catching a glimpse of his wife, Cindy, crying.
Employees were told to gather all their belongings and head downstairs. Some thought it was a bomb threat, others had heard pessimistic rumours, but regardless, there was a general consensus of unease. The employees were met downstairs by police officers. “You could tell they didn’t want to be there,” said Nott. “Who wants to be a part of people losing their jobs?” Then employees were told they were no longer employed by IQT.
The call centre on 199 Wentworth Street East had gone into receivership. Bell pulled out of their contract and hundreds of employees were left in the dark.
Single parents, couples where both partners worked for IQT, people living month-to-month were left with nothing. No vacation pay, no severance, new employees did not receive their first pay cheques that were held back, or those who had been long-term employes didn’t receive their last pay cheques.
What these now jobless people found out about their employer was through rumour and media. Some found out they had lost their job through Facebook.
“This was not how I thought I’d spend my vacation week,” one victim lamented on an IQT support Facebook page.
Nashville, Tennessee offered co-founders David Mortman and his son, Alex, $1.6 million to move operations there.
Action was quickly taken by those let go.
On Monday July 18, a rally march began at Midtown Mall to Oshawa City Hall. Supporters included Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Oshawa Councillor Nancy Diamond and Mayor John Henry.
“Laid -off my ass,” wrote Ryan on his Facebook page. “They were kicked out the door without wages owed, severance or vacation pay. This is free trade for you and if Canadian workers don’t wake up soon all good paying jobs will be on the line.”
Wednesday, June 20th, another rally was held from Memorial Park in downtown Oshawa to Member of Parliament Colin Carrie’s office.
Nashville’s Mayor Karl Dean expressed great disappointment with the Mortman’s actions in a statement. Though he was disappointed for the loss of job opportunities in Nashville, he was concerned with the treatment of the Canadian workers. The deal in Nashville is now off and no money was transferred.
David Mortman was in New York when he made a statement in an interview with the Toronto Star. He claimed no responsibility and instead he insisted he was just as, if not worse off, financially to those who lost their jobs.
Supporters, including Councillor Amy England, and former employees communicate daily via their Facebook group. Support is offered emotionally as well as in regards to everyday life, like how to apply for employment insurance to how they can feed their children on a budget.
It is not only these former employees affected, but also those already searching for jobs in a time where employment is scarce. Oshawa has taken several economic hits recently and this event is another shot to its economic standing.
A CAW information session was held for employees Friday morning to discuss possibilities and further action.
Story by Hillary Di Menna