Communications company Brown Hill in Nevis is set to close early next month and its 138 employees will be laid off, Premier Mark Brantley confirmed in a statement on Monday, August 12.
Brantley said the staff were officially informed of the decision on Monday in a meeting with management and the company will be closed on September 3. Brantley said the closure would have a “significant impact” on the workers “and their families and to the wider economy of our island.”
A second meeting with staff is being held today, August 13.
Brown Hill Communications had provided services to Bell Canada. According to Brantley, Brown Hill had been told that Bell Canada was changing its business model and would be automating many of the services the company has provided.
Brantley said Brown Hill had informed the Nevis Island Administration of the closure on August 2 but asked that no public statement be made until they informed their employees on Monday.
“Since the announcement to us of the closure, the administration has been in regular contact with Brown Hill Communications and its management team,” said Brantley.
“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,” Brantley said.
Brantley said the NIA held an emergency meeting of the Cabinet on August 4 to discuss the closure and plan a strategy to address the loss of jobs.
“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,” Brantley said.
Brantley said that Brown Hill has agreed to severance packages for workers who had been with the company for one year or longer. People who have been at the company for one to seven years will receive a payment equal to three months’ salary. Those who have worked eight to nine years will receive four months salary. Workers who have been with the company for longer than 10 years will receive five months’ salary.
“In addition, workers will continue to receive their bonuses and will be paid their holiday pay,” Brantley said. He said the payments will be made before the end of September.
Brantley said he had also been in contact with the Labour Department on St. Kitts to ensure that severance payments would be “speedily addressed”. Minister of Labour Spencer Brand will also be consulting with the retrenched workers.
Brantley said the NIA has also received a commitment from Brown Hill Communication that all the computers and infrastructure at the centre will be handed over to the government.
“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,” Brantley said.
Brantley said the NIA has also asked Nevis International Bank and Trust to recruit new employees from those retrenched at Brown Hill.
“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,” he said.