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This Boise call center just laid off hundreds of workers

Sykes Enterprises operates a call center in the front-right building in this photo of the Hewlett-Packard campus off Chinden Boulevard near Five Mile Road. The state bought the campus last year.
Sykes Enterprises operates a call center in the front-right building in this photo of the Hewlett-Packard campus off Chinden Boulevard near Five Mile Road. The state bought the campus last year. Provided by Idaho Airships

Sykes Enterprises, which operates a call center in Boise, laid off 640 workers this week.

The losses include 547 customer service workers, 38 team leaders and 55 other employees, including administrators, quality assurance workers and recruiters, according to a notice the company filed with the Idaho Department of Labor.

Sykes spokeswoman Dana Wiederman originally told the Idaho Statesman in an email that the layoffs were due to changes in a client's business needs. Later, she wrote back to say "changes in Sykes' business strategy" were responsible for the reduction in employees. She said the company was moving some of its services out of Boise.

Wiederman declined to say how many workers Sykes had remaining at the company's office on the Hewlett-Packard campus on Chinden Boulevard in northwest Boise.

"Our staffing levels vary depending upon client need, particularly as some work involves seasonal changes," she wrote.

The layoffs took effect Tuesday. Workers will receive pay and benefits for 60 days as they look for new jobs, Wiederman said.

"We are actively looking to bring new business to our center in Boise and continue to provide new career opportunities for residents of the Boise metro area," she wrote.

The notice, filed to comply with the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, said Sykes was working to transfer some of its laid-off workers to the company's virtual call center business, Sykes Home. It did not say how many employees would be offered jobs there.

Georgia Smith, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Labor, said she anticipates many of the workers will quickly find other jobs. Since January, the unemployment rate in the Boise area has fallen from 3.6 percent to 2.4 percent in May, and other employers are actively recruiting workers, Smith said.

She said many employers are aggressively recruiting for workers, even setting up booths at festivals and other events.

"We anticipate with the skill sets, the abilities and the experience that these people have, there's a pretty good chance that they could get employed quite soon," Smith said.

Sykes, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, operates 28 call centers in the United States and another 79 in other countries.

The company reported revenues of $414.4 million for the three months ending March 31, 2018, according to the most recent quarterly report filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. In its annual report, Sykes reported 55,000 employees worldwide as of Jan. 31.

The company was founded in 1977.

They layoffs are the third-highest in Idaho since 2009, according to a list from the Idaho Department of Labor. That year, Micron Technology laid off 2,000 people. In 2014, Maximus, which formerly operated a call center on the H-P campus, laid off 1,600 workers, and the Elks Rehab System laid off 516.

On Saturday, Sykes will lay off 377 employees at a call center in Fayetteville, North Carolina. A notice filed with North Carolina labor officials said the layoff there is expected to be termporary. One client is leaving the center and two new ones are slated to arrive later, an economic development official told the Fayetteville Observer.

A union that represents communications workers but not Sykes' workers on Friday blasted Sykes, saying the company's reliance on oversees workers "plays a major role in the new layoffs affecting Idaho families."

Wiederman denied the Boise layoffs were due to "offshoring."

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @JohnWSowell.

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