Amtrak to lay off 550 employees in Riverside

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Amtrak is ceasing operations at a Riverside call center and laying off 550 employees.

A layoff notice came as a blow for the 550 Amtrak employees at a Riverside call center.

"Kick in the stomach, shocked, angry, scared," said one employee, who did not want to be identified.

On Wednesday in an email to employees, Amtrak said operations would cease Jan. 18. The company is consolidating its operations in California with its call center in Philadelphia.

"It is just not fair to the employees," said Sal Rodriguez, a union representative for Amtrak employees. "We have a collective bargaining agreement and we believe strongly the company will be violating it when we have furloughed employees," he said.

Employees and union leaders say last spring, Amtrak notified them the company would be outsourcing a portion of its calls to a call center in Florida. They say the call center in Port St. Lucie was supposed to help during high call volume at existing call centers.

"Since they opened Port Lucie, I think they have been funneling calls that way and the calls have gone down," said the unidentified employee.

"They are saying that has no effect on us. Obviously, it does, it did because they are going to attempt to close us down," said Rodriguez.

In statement, an Amtrak spokesperson said 90 percent of customers book their travel online and in the last five years, calls to its call centers have decreased by nearly 3 million.

"At our busiest time, only 25 percent of our agents are on the phone at the same time. By consolidating our operations, we will be able to use our resources more efficiently," wrote Olivia Irvin, public relations manager with Amtrak.

Amtrak is giving its call center employees the option of relocating to Philadelphia or applying for other jobs within the company.

"Philadelphia is not an option for me. I've got an elderly mom who is sick," said the unidentified employee.

Unless Amtrak puts the brakes on its plans, employees at the Riverside call center will head into the holidays searching for a job in the new year.

"There is a lot of people out there. All we are trying to do is survive."
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