NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (August 12, 2019) — The following is a statement from Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis regarding the impending closure of Brown Hill Communications, a call centre on Nevis.
My fellow citizens and residents, good evening,
I am saddened to report that I have just returned from a meeting with the management and staff of the Brown Hill Communications at their call centre in Brown Hill where the staff was formally advised by Brown Hill Communications that effective September, 3rd 2019, that business will close its doors in Nevis. This will affect some 138 employees there with significant impacts on them and their families and to the wider economy of our island.
It was only 10 days ago on the afternoon of Friday 2nd August, at approximately 3:15 p.m. that this devastating news was first shared with me as Premier of Nevis in a meeting convened between the management of Brown Hill Communications and my office.
The management of the Brown Hill Communications advised that its main client, Bell Canada, had changed its business model. A number of the services previously provided by Brown Hill Communications for Bell Canada have been automated. The result is that the services of Brown Hill Communications will no longer be utilized by Bell Canada, and as a result Brown Hill Communications will close its operations in Nevis effective September 3rd, 2019.
The administration did not immediately communicate this news to the Nevisian public as Brown Hill Communications requested that it be allowed to speak to its employees before any public statement was made. They have today formally advised their employees, and so I now speak to you in my capacity as Premier of our island.
While my administration understands that this is the nature of international business, we have a duty to look after the interest of the people of Nevis particularly during difficult times such as these. To this end, I convened an emergency meeting of the full Cabinet of the administration on Sunday August 4th, 2019, to discuss the best response to the sudden news of the closure. The Cabinet has decided on various strategies to address this problem and I am leading the effort personally to find a solution.
Since the announcement to us of the closure, the administration has been in regular contact with Brown Hill Communications and its management team. My government’s sole and urgent objective in this is to ensure that workers there are protected in the short term, and that we find employment solutions for them in the medium to long term.
To this end, I am pleased that Brown Hill Communications has committed that workers who worked with them for one to seven years will receive a gratuitous payment of three months’ salary. Those who worked eight to nine years will receive four months’ salary and those who worked over 10 years will receive five months’ salary. In addition workers will continue to receive their bonuses and will be paid their holiday pay.
Brown Hill Communications will be meeting with each employee to discuss his or her package which I am advised will be paid to employees as a lump sum before the end of September, 2019.
My government is grateful to Brown Hill Communications for this kind gesture. We believe that this lump sum payment will provide some interim degree of financial comfort for the affected employees, as they seek to continue to meet their financial obligations while transitioning into new employment over the next few months.
I have also been in close contact with the Labour Department on St. Kitts and have had the further commitment that working through the Labour Department on Nevis, all entitlements to severance payment for the affected workers will be speedily addressed to further cushion the financial impact on them and their families of this sudden closure.
My administration has also secured a commitment from the management of Brown Hill Communication that all the computers and telecommunication infrastructure at the centre will remain intact and handed over to the administration. This is significant because it will enable the administration to immediately work to identify a replacement call centre operator or a business entity of a similar nature for the Brown Hill facility.
The cabinet has mandated the Minister of Labour the Honourable Spencer Brand and his team at the Labour Department to urgently meet with and advise affected employees and to provide maximum support for them during this difficult time.
I am aware that a further meeting will take place tomorrow Tuesday with the affected employees, at which I intend to be present with the members of my government. I urge all employees to speak to the professionals at the Nevis Labour Department for guidance.
I should also advise that my administration has already identified a corporate partner, Nevis International Bank and Trust (www.ibanknevis.com), which is presently in the process of recruiting employees for their new operations on the island, to seek a commitment for the employment of some of these affected workers to fill various positions in Marketing, Customer Service, Information Technology and Human Resources.
Interviews should commence shortly and I thank Nevis International Bank and Trust for responding positively to my request with such alacrity. I invite other corporate partners to seek to absorb as many of the affected employees as possible.
The notice period to the administration from Brown Hill Communications was a very short one, and due to the reasons for the closure there was nothing the government or Brown Hill Communications could do to prevent it.
Nevertheless, I have already commenced discussions with other possible operators with a view to having a replacement operator at that facility in the very near future. Any such new operator would be asked to utilize the skills of the already well-trained workforce.
I urge the affected employees to be prudent in the management of their compensation packages over the next few months as they seek to transition into new employment opportunities.
My administration records it’s gratitude to Brown Hill Communications for its immense contribution to the island’s economy over the past 10 years. Brown Hill Communications has been an excellent corporate partner and a significant employer. They have contributed significantly to our island and its economy, and I wish to record our thanks to them for their long service to our island of Nevis.
Whilst my administration works to find a lasting solution, we commit to the affected workers that we will work closely with them all to cushion the effects of this closure and to weather this storm.
Nevisians have always been a strong and resilient people and my government commits to working unceasingly to ensure that the people of the island and those who call Nevis home are taken care of. The welfare of the people of Nevis remains of paramount interest to the Cabinet and members of the Nevis Island Administration.
I give you my solemn word that we shall get through this difficult period together. The true measure of any leadership is its ability to overcome difficulties. You have put your trust and confidence in me and my Cabinet and we shall not disappoint you.
The news today is not good news for our island nor for the 138 employees at Brown Hill Communications but I am confident that with God’s grace we shall emerge from this and overcome these difficult days together.
May God continue to bless us all, and may we continue to lean on Him for wisdom to face the vicissitudes that will come from time to time.
Thank you and God bless you.