Sonder: fired in English as soon as the agreement is signed

Sonder: fired in English as soon as the agreement is signed

Half of the employees laid off in Montreal by the US company Sonder, which received a $30 million loan from Quebec, had just signed a first collective agreement and trained their colleagues in the Philippines before leaving.

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“This is the first time that I have a closure when we just had a collective agreement. […] We are dismayed by this decision,” said Roxane Larouche, spokesperson for the TUAC union in Quebec.

Employees had worried about the reduction in the number of workers in the Montreal office to the benefit of the Philippines, but they never imagined that the company would put the key in the door of the call center.

Sonder announced last week that it will lay off 250 of its employees, including 40 in Montreal. Of this group, there are twenty who are unionized.

However, Sonder had promised in 2020 the creation of 700 jobs in Montreal, a “growth center” and investments of 182 million dollars, in exchange for a loan of 30 million dollars from Quebec.

Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon was proud to announce the government's support for Sonder in this video released in 2020.


Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon was proud to announce the government’s support for Sonder in this video released in 2020.

A first $6 million tranche of the loan has already been allocated to Sonder, but has not yet been used. The rest will follow for 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 went to San Francisco in 2019, […] I asked them: “what can I do to bring back part of this company at least to Montreal?” he had explained.

He had described Sonder’s services as a “hotel with an Amazon approach.”

union formed

Since then, a union representing around 20 Sonder call center employees was formed in 2020 and a first collective agreement was signed in June.

Roxanne Larouche.  UFCW Union

Photo taken from Twitter

Roxanne Larouche. UFCW Union

Roxane Larouche alleges that Montreal employees trained employees at a new call center in the Philippines before the company announced the closure of the Montreal one.

Sonder maintains that there were exchanges, but that the employees were not responsible for the training.

The union does not rule out legal remedies.

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Sources also told us that the layoffs were announced only in English.

Our Bureau of Investigation obtained a written message that was sent by management to employees informing them of the layoffs. In this message we explain in English the decision to lay off due to the change in market mood since the beginning of the year.

“Rising inflation, rising interest rates and a rapid drop of around 65% in valuations of unprofitable companies froze capital markets,” he said. Management says it is “deeply sorry,” especially for the impact on laid-off employees and their families.

Sonder spokeswoman Fiona Story defends herself by saying that “official documentation” provided to employees is available in English and French. She says that there is no connection between the signing of the collective agreement and the dismissals.

“The decision to suppress the charges in question is not attributable to [l’]agreement [avec le syndicat]but to respond to the current situation of the stock markets”, he continued.

The Sonder spokesman assured that the company maintains “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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