Commissioners vote to close central service center, grant three-month contract extension to make time for transition.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission voted unanimously late last week to close its contractor-operated national customer service center and start redirecting calls to its field offices, a spokesman said.
The customer service center, known as the National Contact Center, has come under fire from Congress recently, with language pending in the Senate and passed by the House that would eliminate funding for the private program. Union representatives also have criticized the contact center, saying the work should go to federal employees.
The contract to run the center had an expiration date of Sept. 20, but the EEOC authorized a three-month extension to allow time to transfer the work in-house. David Grinberg, an EEOC spokesman, said the agency plans to post an advertisement Tuesday on the government contracting site Federal Business Opportunities for an independent call center expert. The consultant would help the agency draft a transition plan and an efficient permanent call management system.
Gabrielle Martin, president of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of EEOC Locals No. 216, said staffing will be the most critical element of the new system. "[EEOC] needs to hire and train the right people to do the job," she said. She stressed the importance of training, saying that frontline EEOC staff must be equipped to field "very complex questions."
The agency probably will hire personnel to cope with incoming calls, Grinberg said. But final staffing decisions will depend on budget allocations and the consultant's suggestions.
Federal employees seeking to contact the EEOC still will be able to call the same toll-free number and choose from more than 100 languages, Grinberg said.
The vote to transfer operations comes on the heels of an Aug. 2 vote in which the commission decided not to extend the contract for the center.
Pearson Government Solutions, which was later taken over by Vangent Inc., won a contract three years ago to establish the National Contact Center as a two-year pilot program. When the pilot expired, the commission voted to extend the contract for a third year.
Vangent has 62 employees working at the center and fields half a million calls annually, said Eileen Kassidy Rivera, vice president of communications for Vangent. Rivera could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.