Tue | Nov 21, 2017

Sutherland adding more seats, jobs at CSO centre

Published:Friday | November 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson

Business process out-sourcing firm Sutherland Global is adding about 400 jobs at its South Camp Road facility near downtown Kingston, which would effectively quintuple its workforce at that centre since it first launched there.

"By the time the month is over, we will have 1,000 seats with about 1,400 people," said Sutherland Global Country Manager Odetta Rockhead Kerr this week.

One seat can accommodate about two staff on separate shifts.

Sutherland initially began operating at the Central Sorting Office complex, CSO, with 400 seats and 290 workers. The centre subsequently grew to 500 seats with 1,000 workers and is now doubling seat capacity and adding more workers.

Further improvements to the interior and exterior design and fixtures at the facility will be undertaken by GraceKennedy, from which Sutherland subleases the space.

Any additional stages in the transformation of the BPO space would require more floor acquisitions at the CSO by GraceKennedy. However, state-owned Postal Corporation of Jamaica, which operates as Jamaica Post, has not placed additional floors, or the building, on the market.

"There are talks about getting more space," said Rockhead Kerr, adding that it could include the entire building, which is nearly four decades old.

"But such talks would take about two years, because CSO would need to find a new home and it would take about year for it to be built. But if it becomes available, we have clients to support that growth of space," she said.

Sutherland is an American company formed in 1986 and is one of the largest BPO investors in Jamaica, employing around 5,000 people. Its clients include Fortune 500 companies.

Globally, the company operates in 19 countries, employing 60,000 persons who execute 43 million transactions monthly, and pulls in US$1.2 billion in revenue, according to its website.

Rockhead Kerr said that the estimated impact to the economy with the 1,400 workers at CSO, in terms of salaries, ranged between US$13.8 million and US$26.3 million. That equates to roughly $1.3 million per employee.

Group CEO of GraceKennedy Limited Don Wehby said the conglomerate would consider securing access to additional space at the CSO complex to build out an additional 2,000 to 3,000 seats, "should the space ever become available".

Jamaica Post, in an initial response to the Financial Gleaner, said it would discuss the matter internally before responding.

Wehby said that GK has spent more than $300 million on the CSO project overall. Phase one, completed in July of this year, spanned 20,000 square feet of space. Phase two, completed in October, added 40,000 square feet.

In 2015, GraceKennedy subsidiary GK Investments Limited entered into a lease arrangement with the Postal Corporation of Jamaica for a section of the CSO property. GK Investments leased the second floor of the building, measuring some 59,000 square feet, with the prospect of increasing the space to around 200,000 square feet.

The post office's administrative headquarters was established on South Camp Road in 1960 and the CSO was fully constructed in 1980. It remains the home of Jamaica's main post office, which has relocated several times in the centuries that the postal service has operated.

In 1776, the central post office moved from Spanish Town to Harbour Street in Kingston, where it operated until the 1907 earthquake, which damaged the building. Its next home was at King Street in Kingston, until it moved to South Camp Road.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com