Friday marks the last day of work for 143 Maximus call center employees in Hattiesburg who were told last week they no longer have jobs.
Maximus said overstaffing led to the decision to cut some of the workforce handling calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Employees have been organizing at the Hattiesburg location, regularly holding protests over the last 10 months, calling for better working conditions, pay and health care. Workers hope to eventually form a union.
Workers planned to gather again outside the Hattiesburg office Friday afternoon in protest of the layoffs, which they say arrived with barely 10 days notice last week.
“Maximus cannot possibly claim that it treats its employees with respect and sensitivity when, as a billion-dollar corporation, it’s failing to provide enough notice of their termination or sufficient severance pay for workers to take care of their families,” Tiandra Robinson, an organizer at Communications Workers of America, said in a statement. “Shame on Maximus for pulling the rug out from under hundreds of people who are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Maximus said in a statement that “low attrition rates” resulted in “surplus staffing.” After the layoffs, the Hattiesburg office will employ 787 workers who handle a range of phone calls for the federal government including Medicare and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Workers last held a strike in November, during the start of open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, when calls at the office surged. That protest attracted about 200 workers outside the Hattiesburg office demanding better working conditions and better policies to handle caller abuse.
Robinson said this latest move by Maximus shows why it’s important for workers to unionize so they can be better protected from “arbitrary layoffs.”
“Whenever we make staffing decisions, we make it a priority to treat all of our people with respect and sensitivity,” Maximus said in a statement. “That is why we are coordinating with other Maximus programs where remote positions may be available for impacted employees. We also will ensure that we consider these employees for other hiring needs if additional staff is required in the future.”
The laid off workers were not given any severance, according to Communications Workers of America.
Organizers say another protest is also planned for Friday afternoon at the Maximus call center in Bogalusa, La., which is also cutting jobs.