Call center relocation bill clears Senate Labor Committee

TRENTON – The Senate Labor Committee released a bill requiring employers relocating a call center from New Jersey to another country must notify the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development and give back the value of any direct or indirect state grant or other financial incentives the company may have received.

The vote was 3 -1, with Democrats supporting and Sen. Anthony Bucco voting no. Sen. Dawn Addiego abstained.

The bill affects companies that intend to transfer at least 30 percent of their calling operations outside the country and the companies must notify LWD at least 90 days prior to the relocation or transfer of operations. Violating that notification requirement could result in a maximum $7,500 civil penalty for each day the employer fails to provide the notification.

The bill was amended as the original draft called for a 120-day notification and a $10,000 per-day fine.

Seth Hahn of the Communications Worker of America, which is comprised of Verizon and AT&T call center workers, said he supports the bill.

He said some 4 million people are working at call centers in the United States. However, many of them have moved overseas, to countries such as India and China.

Between 2005 and 2010, some 18,000 call center jobs from New Jersey were outsourced, Hahn said.

The starting salary for the call center jobs is $27,000, he said.

“These are not exorbitant Cadillac jobs,” Hahn said.

Sharon Adamo, president  of CWA local 1023, which currently has 725 Verizon call center workers, said at one time, she had as many as 3,000 workers.

She described them as “good, middle-class jobs.”

Adamo said it’s unfair companies receive money from the state, yet they don’t have to create jobs in the state.

Kirk Corless of CWA local 1022 echoed similar concerns, adding that the company’s top executive made plenty of money, but there was little around to spread when it came to the call center workers.

However, business groups NJBIA and the state Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, but neither testified.

The bill defines “call center” as a facility where workers receive incoming phone calls, emails, or other electronic communication to provide customer assistance. Also, the bill defines “employer” as any business entity that employs 50 or more full-time workers.

The bill also requires:

*maintaining a list of all employers that provide the notification required by the bill which will be updated monthly;

*Make the list available online to the public.

*Making companies ineligible for two years following the date upon which the employer is added to the list.

*Give state agencies the ability to award a contract to “qualified” businesses for which the agency has a preference.

Any unused grants they receive they could keep unless that money will be used for training for workers who are veterans.

Call center relocation bill clears Senate Labor Committee