The notice came abruptly on Friday to Ann Arbor, Michigan call center workers employed by the U.S. arm of French business process outsourcing company Teleperformance: the office was to be closed and 430 employees were newly unemployed. The news came as a surprise to everyone involved.
The layoffs were first disclosed by Salt Lake City-based Teleperformance USA in a notice to the Michigan Workforce Development Agency:
“This is to notify you, pursuant to the provisions of the Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, that effective January 19, 2014, TPUSA, Inc, (‘Teleperformance USA’) will be closing its operations at the Ann Arbor facility located at 2300 Traverwood Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48105. We anticipate that this closure will be permanent and will result in all Teleperformance USA employees being released from employment. This closure was caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable.”
This “business circumstance” turned out to be a surprise non-renewal of a client contract. While the client’s identity was a matter of speculation for days, Google has come forward and issued a statement to the Detroit Free Press that it is the client in question. Company spokeswoman Rebecca Rutkoff confirmed that it has chosen not to renew Teleperformance’s contract, though she did not specify a reason.
“We re-evaluate our work with vendors all of the time and decided not to renew this contract,” said Rutkoff.
Workers at the Ann Arbor office were reportedly fielding tech support calls related to Google products such as its Nexus smartphones and tablets and its Google Play media store. Accordng to Google, the customer support that was being performed by the Ann Arbor-based Teleperformance employees will now be handled by call center workers elsewhere in the U.S. Interestingly enough, Google leases office space in the same Ann Arbor building where Teleperformance’s offices were located.
The layoffs are said to be affecting primarily contact center supervisors, managers and trainers. Amit Shankardass, executive vice president of marketing for Teleperformance, says that severance pay was provided to all employees who were laid off. While the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act usually requires companies to give 60 days’ warning before large-scale layoffs that affect more than 100 workers, a company can claim an exception if circumstances were not “reasonably foreseeable.”