GEM, a privately owned outsource contact centre, currently employs upwards of 50 people in Londonderry. But the firm has now confirmed it is in talks with staff over potential redundancies as a result of a "volume reduction" on one of its contractsADVERTISEMENT.<< Archive
Philip Cassidy, chief executive of GEM, commented: "We are working with the staff to try and minimise the impact."
Foyle MP Mark Durkan described the jobs revelation as more bad news for the local economy.
"This has to be bad news, not just for the workers affected, but for people who are worried about how far this downturn will go.
"This economic situation has affected a lot of companies, particularly those who are reliant on work coming in from other companies.
"However, as well as offering support to firms and unions as they try to cope with the effects of the downturn we need to maximise such job-supporting interventions as agencies and government can muster," said Mr Durkan.
"It is not enough for our system to plead powerlessness if we are not applying measures here that others are using - for instance payroll shelter schemes in Wales - which are focussed on retaining and retraining staff.
"That is why the SDLP launched a major finance paper at Stormont only a fortnight ago addressing the current economic downturn and the steps the Executive should be taking to mitigate its effects by revising its budget priorities," he added.
As recently as February GEM announced it was to create up to 900 new jobs across Northern Ireland over the next three years with an investment of £5.5m from Invest NI.
The potential posts announced in February were due to include customer service agents, sales agents, technical support and managerial positions. GEM said the jobs would generate £14m annually in salaries.
GEM said the employees affected by the "volume reduction" will be offered positions in Belfast where possible.
Mr Durkan said urgent action is needed at Government level to help companies cope.
"The Executive's budget, which the SDLP opposed, was based on a number of projections and presumptions which are no longer valid. Therefore, when economic conditions change the budget management should change too," he said.
"But Sinn Féin and the DUP have refused to change anything, instead adopting a 'No we can't and no we won't' approach. They argue there is no new money but this is precisely why we must look again at the budget.
"No one is pretending that devolved powers can cure all the job effects we are suffering but we need more creative, more responsive coping measures to help mitigate the impact and protect a basis for future recovery," he concluded.
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