Business reporter Emma McNamara is doing a series on regional job creation this week, by both mutli-nationals and Irish firms. Today she is in Waterford City and her focus here is call centres. Jobs in Waterford is a key issue that has been in the news recently because of the job, pay and benefit cuts at Bausch & Lomb.
One of the call centres operating in Waterford is Rigney Dolphin Group. Barry Maye, head of business development at the group, says the company's call centre in Waterford has a workforce of 300, up from about 100 this time last year. It provides "typical customer care", e-mail handling and some web-chat for a number of clients. Its clients include some public service organisations, a number of telecom companies and utility companies. The centre is not multi-lingual at the moment due to the fact that its clients do not need that level of services, but Mr Maye adds that the multi-lingual skills do exist in the city and are available if and when the company needs them.
Another part of Rigney Dolphin's business is called Relate Care. This is a call centre in Waterford which employs up to 30 nurses - full-time and student - with American registrations, who manage contracts and calls on behalf of US hospitals and doctors. Conor O'Byrne, Relate Care's managing director, says his staff use established protocols and software to guide their callers in Ohio to the necessary clinical advice and the necessary information. On behalf of their clients in Cleveland, they also manage about 75% of their post-discharge follow up calls. This new initiative was started in 2012 as a result of reform of the US medical system and the onset of re-admission penalties. Hospitals for now penalised for patients who are re-admitted back to hospital within 30 days of discharge. Discharged patients are contacted within 48 hours by Relate Care and one of their nurses runs through the patient's condition, symptoms and medication. He points out that one third of re-admissions to US hospitals is due to patients not taking their medication properly.
Eddie Mulligan, chairman of Waterford Business Group, says that the recent events at Bausch & Lomb was very traumatic for Waterford and the city's businesses. He says this was reflected at the city's tills. But he says the fact that new investment was secured for the company is positive for Waterford and is the marking point for a new revitalised city. Admitting that the city has come from a very dark place, Mr Mulligan says that the city is facing a much more positive story and with its very pro-action council is making progress. However, he says that more Government help is needed as the recovery in Waterford and the southeast is making much slower progress than other areas of the country. He calls on the Government to ringfence €2m for the development of the area.
Colm Tracey, of Eishtec, says that the company was set up in 2011 after its founders were made redundant. Employing just nine when it was established, it now has a workforce of 950 in two locations - Waterford and Wexford. Mr Tracey says the business offers high quality and value for money and that is why is it so successful. It provides support for large telecos in the UK including Orange and Team-mobile. As well as offering customer support, Eishtec also offers selling services and upgrades. Mr Tracey says he is very proud of his workforce, adding that the company makes sure they have the necessary skills to compete internationally. He says that while some people may "look down" at call centres, governments and agencies worldwide recognise that they are key sectors of economic regional policy. He says they provide an entry point for young people in the work force, they can create a lot of jobs quickly while they also provide people with the ability to reskill and retrain in a new industry.