Half of the employees laid off in Montreal by the American company Sonder, which received a $30 million loan from Quebec City, had just signed a first collective agreement and trained colleagues in the Philippines before their departure.
“This is the first time that I have had a closure when we have just had a collective agreement. […] We are appalled by this decision,” denounced Roxane Larouche, spokesperson for the TUAC union in Quebec.
Employees were concerned about the decrease in the number of workers in the Montreal office for the benefit of the Philippines, but they would never have imagined that the company would shut down the call center.
Sonder announced last week that it is laying off 250 of its employees, including 40 in Montreal. Of this group, there are about twenty who are unionized.
Sonder had however promised in 2020 the creation of 700 jobs in Montreal, a “growth center” and investments of $182 million, in exchange for a $30 million loan from Quebec.
A first tranche of 6 million $ of the loan has already been assigned to Sonder, but has not yet been drawn down. The rest will follow over the next four years.
Prime Minister François Legault congratulated himself in December 2020 at a press conference, saying he was “heartbroken” when he saw that Sonder, founded by Montrealers, moved its headquarters to San Francisco in 2017. “When I am went to San Francisco in 2019, […] I asked them: 'what can I do to bring some of this business back to Montreal at least?'” he explained.
He described Sonder's services as a “hotel with an Amazon approach”.
- Listen to the interview by Benoît Dutrizac with Roxane Larouche on QUB Radio:
Since then, a union representing around 20 Sonder call center employees was formed in 2020 and a first collective agreement was signed in June.< /p> Roxane Larouche. UFCW Union
Roxane Larouche claims that Montreal employees trained employees of a new call center in the Philippines before the company announced the closure of the Montreal one.
Sonder claims that there were exchanges, but that the employees were not responsible for the training.
The union does not rule out legal action.
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Announcement in English< /p>
Sources also told us that the layoffs were announced in English only.
Our Bureau of Investigation obtained a written message that was sent by management to employees to inform them of the layoffs. In this message, the decision to layoff is explained in English by the change in mood of the market since the beginning of the year.
“Creeping inflation, rising interest rates 'interest and a rapid decline of around 65% in the valuations of unprofitable companies froze the capital markets,' he explained. Management says it is “deeply sorry” especially for the impact on the laid off employees and their families.
Sonder spokeswoman Fiona Story defends herself by saying that the “official documentation” provided to employees is available in English and French. She says there is no connection between the signing of the collective agreement and the layoffs.
“The decision to abolish the positions in question is not attributable to [the] agreement [with the union], but rather to respond to the current situation on the stock markets,” she continued. the company maintained “its intention to invest in Quebec and to prioritize job creation there as part of the recovery that will result from this restructuring, in particular for specialized and high value-added positions”.
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