The email message caught the employees off-guard as no one seemed to anticipate the message it contained—that the Amtrak call center in Riverside was closing and its building was being sold.
Just like that, with the tap of a computer key, the lives of 500 employees were changed forever with very little notice. The email announcement which arrived Wednesday, November 14, advised employees the call center’s last date of operation will be January 18, 2019.
Amtrak’s Mission Grove facility is one of two national call centers operated by the transportation giant. The company now plans to handle its call volume at its remaining center in Philadelphia—the Riverside employees are being offered an opportunity to retain their call center jobs if they choose to relocate to Philadelphia.
It was reported by CBS that Amtrak call center employees in Riverside and their representatives, the Transportation Communications Union (TCU) have accused Amtrak of consolidating its call centers while at the same time it has purportedly outsourced some call center work to a non-union shop in Florida.
Amtrak spokeswoman Olivia Irvin said in an email that the company would not discuss the relocation process. Irvin also denied Amtrak has opened a non-union facility in Florida, despite statements that Riverside supervisors flew to Florida to train personnel there. She did admit however that Amtrak retained a company called Business Process Outsourcer in Florida. According to Irvin the workers are not Amtrak employees and they are providing quality service at a lower cost.
TCU leaders have contacted local politicians for support as they work through the relocation process with Amtrak in hopes they can help achieve for the best outcome for Riverside’s Amtrak employees. Formal negotiations between the company and the union began last Friday and relocation benefits were among the union’s top priorities.
U.S. House of Representatives member Mark Takano, who represents most of Riverside, expressed his frustration about the layoffs. He reportedly called the action’s taken by Amtrak to date as both “sloppy” and “unprofessional.” He further committed to seek legislative or appropriations remedies when Democrats become the majority party in the House of Representatives in January.