Two large call centre closure announcements in the past week. Eddie Bauer just announced they are shutting down their Saint John facility. Eddie Bauer went into bankruptcy protection a year ago – I suspected they would look to outsource their customer contact activity as a way to cut costs. As for the Oromocto call centre, it’s my understanding they were paying around $10/hour.
I think the days of lower end call centre activity in New Brunswick are rapidly coming to a close and that is likely a good thing. I talked with an industry guy earlier this week who told me that in Moncton, for example, you have to pay at least $12/hour to get people in the door and $14 or more to keep them. He then said that a number of the customer contact centres were paying $40k and up and have almost zero turnover.
In the real world, economic development can be a little messy. Attracting investment and employment to a community can put upward pressure on wages, tighten labour markets and increase the overall cost structure.
As I have talked about before, the utlimate objective is to be a place where companies can invest their capital and make a reasonable return on their investment. If we set this as our basic premise, it would help shape economic development policy.
For example, if customer contact centre wages are rising why not develop a tax-based incentive for firms to invest in productivity improvement? If a customer contact centre can drop its employment from 500 to 300 and still have the same productivity it could afford to offer more pay and benefits.