More bad news on the Buffalo Billion project

Remember that high-tech IBM hub turned call center? Today, more than 100 employees at one of the call centers have been notified of their job cuts.

More than 100 call center workers working in downtown offices paid with $ 55 million in Buffalo Billion funds have been told they are losing their jobs.

The funding was used to recruit IBM to establish a high-tech hub at the Key Center that would employ 500 software engineers and other highly paid workers. IBM did not keep this commitment, employing a small but unknown number of workers at the site.

Instead, some of the space was sublet to two call centers. As previously indicated by Investigative Post, these operations were plagued by problems, including staff disruptions and missed pay.

Investigative Post reported in February 2018:

Far from bringing ‘cutting edge software development jobs’ to Buffalo like Governor promised, most of the employees here work in call centers as contractors, for modest pay and meager benefits.

It’s not just that the project doesn’t live up to its billing as a high-tech hub; its performance as a call center has also been dismal.

State employees who call the help desk – to reset a password or restore access to an account – may wait more than half an hour on hold, only to find out that the person at the other end of the line does not have the right tools or training to help. Last summer the service was so bad that managers feared the contract might be canceled altogether.

Fast forward to today. Employees of one of the two call centers operated by Computer Work Group Inc. – an IBM subcontractor that provides technical services to third-party customers – informed up to 175 employees on June 22 that their jobs were being cut due to a service contract between IBM and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield “ended prematurely”.

A copy of a layoff notice obtained by Investigative Post advises CTG employees to expect layoffs to be finalized “on or around August 31”. It also states that there is no provision in company policies for “transfer, bumping or reassignment” and that employees should view layoffs as “permanent”.

Representatives from CTG and IBM declined to answer questions about the layoffs or the number of jobs affected.

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Sources told Investigative Post that 175 CTG employees have received layoff notices, but the total number of jobs lost, including those involving IBM employees, could reach 350. An IBM spokesperson said the total job loss was about a third of that number.

In 2014, an economic development agency controlled by the Cuomo administration committed $ 55 million in state taxpayer dollars to purchase equipment and renovate offices on the top seven floors of the Key Center to develop a hub innovation anchored by IBM.

The project failed and Investigative Post reported in 2020 that the state agency was trying to rent four of the seven floors she controlled. This contradicted the state’s original deal with IBM, as Investigative Post reported:

The payoff, we were told, would be 500 well-paying software engineering jobs and the start of a tech hub with all kinds of spin-off developments.

Now four of those floors of Fountain Plaza are available for rent, raising all kinds of questions about IBM’s commitment to Buffalo. Did he withdraw? Work on a plan B? None of the above?

IBM does not say so. Neither did the Cuomo administration.

The company and the governor still refuse to answer questions.

Sources told Investigative Post that at least two of the floors would be freed up by cutting CTG jobs related to IBM’s contract with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Two other floors are occupied by a call center operation providing services to the State. It is not known if this operation will be affected by layoffs.

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Representatives from CTG and IBM declined interview requests, as did Pamm Lent, spokesperson for Empire State Development. ESD categorically declined to answer Investigative Post’s questions about the IBM project.

CTG spokesperson Amanda LeBlanc released a statement saying the company remains focused on providing services until its engagement with IBM ends. Despite the reference to the company’s lack of a reassignment policy, the statement says CTG is working to reassign employees as “new opportunities arise.”

In its statement, IBM said that “the start or end of a particular project” does not impact the “planned transformation of its operations to support new types of technological work with the potential to create new ones. high tech career opportunities “.

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About Perry Perrie

Perry Perrie

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