Bank of America call center in Belfast lays off 20, closes child care center

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff
Posted June 27, 2013, at 3:21 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — A company spokesman confirmed this week that there will be a small number of layoffs soon at the Bank of America call center in Belfast, which employs about 800 people.

The news came days after an announcement that the company will cut 400 positions in Texas by the end of September, but spokesman T.J. Crawford said that the Belfast layoffs are not related. The Texas cuts were made in an effort to consolidate the Legacy Asset Servicing Unit, which helps customers avoid home foreclosures.

“The decision [in Belfast] is part of an ongoing effort to become a leaner, more simple company,” he said. “In situations like this, we have a strong track record of helping our employees identify opportunities both inside and outside the company. Our human resources team will be working closely with these individuals.”

Fewer than 20 positions will be cut from the Belfast call center, which also will see the closure soon of its on-site child care center for employees. Bright Horizons Children’s Center in Belfast is licensed for 124 infants, toddlers and preschool-age children. Belfast City Planner Wayne Marshall said Thursday that word of its impending closure this September has generated a wave of applications for new child care centers that have been submitted to the Belfast Planning Board.

“It appears there’s been somewhat of a ripple effect in the interest of providing more areas for child care partly in response to the closing of that facility at Bank of America,” Marshall said.

Bank of America purchased credit card lender MBNA in 2006. At that time, the bank employed 1,700 people in Belfast. In recent years, Bank of America has been speeding up planned job cuts amid declining revenue, new regulations and a tepid economy. The second-largest U.S. bank in 2011 began a plan to eliminate 30,000 jobs under a cost-cutting program.

Crawford said that the bank employs about 260,000 people globally.

Joe Slocum, Belfast city manager, said that he was sorry to learn about the layoffs at the city’s largest employer, which is a “great asset” to the regional economy.

“This city, and this region, has benefited for many years from first MBNA, and now Bank of America,” he said. “I hope they will continue to make a commitment to this part of Maine.”

According to Crawford, Bank of America announced last fall that it would close a small number of child care centers in nine markets around the country, including the one in Belfast. The bank’s child care centers are operated by Massachusetts-based Bright Horizons.

“The decision was made to focus on the programs that are more broadly available to all U.S. employees,” Crawford said. “We notified our employees last year, so they’d have as much time as possible to make alternate arrangements.”

Rebecca Childs, the head teacher at the 24-child Starrett Center in Belfast, said this week that her facility has had applications from families that had been using the Bank of America program. Its closure has created an impact, she said.

“We have a waiting list, and we are getting a lot of people still calling,” Childs said. “I believe [the market] is pretty tight.”

Assistant City Planner James Francomano said that two new child care facilities in Belfast already have been granted permits since late last summer. One, the Wee Care Day Care, is licensed for up to 49 children and is located next to Th’Ice Cream Barn on U.S. Route 1. The other, The Children’s Voice, is licensed for up to 40 children at its High Street location.

The Belfast Planning Board is scheduled to hear about several other proposed programs this July. One of those is to be operated in a farmhouse on Edgecomb Road and would likely serve 12 children. Another is proposed to be operated by Regina Madden, the current director of the Bank of America facility. She is seeking licensure and permits for a 34-child program located behind the Faith Temple Church of God on Route 52. A third applicant would like to open a program serving 15 kids in the Methodist Church on Mill Lane.

The planning board also will decide on a few other smaller, home-based child care applications, Francomano said.

Marshall said that the closure of the Bank of America child care program likely has inspired the onslaught.

“There appears to be some ongoing demand in the area,” he said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/27/news/mid-maine/bank-of-america-call-center-in-belfast-lays-off-20-and-closes-child-care-center/ printed on July 30, 2014