News that Colmar Brunton's Croftfield Lane call centre in the North Shore would close before Christmas with the loss of 50 jobs surfaced today after Unite Union national director Mike Treen blabbed to the media. But chairman Dick Brunton and field services manager Donald Carter say the union has jumped the gun and, strictly speaking, the call centre's closure is still a proposal.
Even so, Brunton says the reality is the company doesn't need the large-scale infrastructure any more, so it's inevitable that it will close at some stage. But the consultation process is continuing and a final decision will be made on 29 January.
Carter says discussions with staff and their representatives to restructure the company's telephone-based fieldwork began at the start of December but he says that process "has suffered a little bit of damage because one of the parties has decided to go to the media".
"We're letting people know in time to prepare. There's never a good time to tell people," Carter says."But we are not closing right now. We will not close before the new year and we will re-open."
Unite's Treen told Stuff.co.nz today: "The company has decided to close its North Shore call centre and announced the decision just weeks before Christmas, leaving our members facing the new year without a job, income or any form of compensation."
But Carter says the management team are "taking all steps to work with our staff to see them re-employed".
"The numbers all have names attached. I know them and I know their families," he says.
He confirmed there is no provision for redundancy payouts because there was no redundancy clause in their employment contracts.
Carter says the union has been invited to be part of the negotiations the whole way. But Brunton doesn't think it was right for the "very aggressive union" to ask their members and the public to boycott the company. It also named one of the company's clients, British American tobacco.
"That was a breach of faith. They shouldn't have done that," he says.
Carter says new technological developments in telephone surveying and the substantial increase in requirements for online surveying meant that closing the call centre was seen as the best option. The computer-assisted telephone interviewing will be taken care of by Colmar Brunton's home-based network of interviewers, who can all be monitored from the HQ.
"The emphasis [on online] is already there. It's a priority and it will continue to be," he says.
Brunton says over half of the company's work is now online and he believes it does more online research than all of the other research companies combined. So there have been extra jobs created in this area, he says.
Chris Pescott, the owner and founder of market research company Perceptive, says it's not too surprising to hear that Colmar Brunton's call centre is closing. He feels for the staff, of course, but it was a case of the "last man standing" and he says most of the big research companies have closed call centres in the last year because lower cost research methodology is now preferred by clients.
But he says it's important to realise that online research methods aren't just limited to online surveys. They're just one tool. And whether it be online bulletin boards or online conferencing, there are a number of these different research tools available to leverage the Internet's reach.