Aiming to encourage employers to keep call center jobs in New Jersey, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Dan Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Eric Houghtaling and Benjie Wimberly to require employers that outsource call center jobs overseas to forfeit any state aid or business incentives they may have received was signed into law Tuesday.
“Outsourcing jobs contributes to unemployment, which hurts the economy,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “These incentives are meant to support businesses that are committed to the state. Moving jobs overseas takes opportunities for work away from New Jersey residents. This law helps protect our investment and economic vitality.”
The law (formerly bill A-1992) will require any employer relocating a call center from New Jersey to another country to notify the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. An employer that violates this requirement would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $7,500 for each day the violation continues.
These employers will no longer be eligible to receive any direct or indirect State grant, guaranteed loan, tax benefit or other financial support as a result of their decision to relocate.
American companies have embraced the practice of exporting call center jobs as a way of reducing labor costs. Over the past decade, the U.S. has lost more than 200,000 call center jobs, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In many communities, the loss of a call center means the loss of a pillar of the local economy.
“These companies transfer business functions to developing countries because they can take advantage of skilled foreign workers, while paying them a fraction of U.S. worker wages,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “This not only hurts our workers, but jeopardizes the level of service that consumers get.”
“Moving jobs to other countries so they can pay lower wages while benefitting from state resources is a slap in the face to the state,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “These companies should not be able to take advantage of our financial support while they actively keep jobs away from our workers.”
“When companies outsource call center jobs, residents lose work,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “Companies that choose to take jobs out of the state should not be able to benefit from the state’s generosity.”
The law also requires any employer with a call center in New Jersey to maintain a staffing level capable of handling no less than 65 percent of customer volume of telephone calls, emails, or other electronic communications. If the staffing level falls below this required amount, the employer is required to notify the commissioner.
“Simply put, the goal of this law is to keep jobs for our residents in our state and avoid losing jobs,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “This law not only incentivizes call centers to stay in New Jersey, it will insist that employers always have the proper amount of employees on staff at all times, which will save, as well as increase, jobs in our state.”