Up to 200 jobs will be lost at a call centre in north Belfast after the loss of a major contract, the US-based firm has said.
TeleTech in Colorado yesterday confirmed it had lost the contract to provide European customer support services for car-maker Nissan, resulting in the loss of one-third of its 600-strong workforce.
A spokeswoman for the firm said the programme would be "ramped down" over the next few months, with the loss of 197 jobs at the Duncairn Gardens base.
But she said the company was committed to keeping its Belfast operation open and hoped to obtain new work, which could result in more jobs at the base.
The remaining staff work on two other "programmes" for clients who could not be identified, she added.
It's understood that around half the workers affected are from the Continent – including countries such as France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands – who came to Northern Ireland for work.
The contract is instead going to French company B2S – which the spokeswoman said was a result of a "strategic change" by the client rather than cost. According to a company memo seen by the Belfast Telegraph, duties will be transferred to B2S between May 13 and July 23.
The memo states that the change will amount to a "relevant transfer" under the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (Tupe) Regulations – the EU rules which protect jobs when companies are taken over or contracts are transferred. George McKinney of Invest NI said: "The news that Teletech, a long-standing employer in Northern Ireland, has lost its contract with Nissan Europe and the potential resulting jobs losses is very disappointing.
"Invest NI will continue to work with the company to support it in whatever way possible and will liaise with the Department for Employment and Learning to support those affected."
Local Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly described the job losses as "a devastating blow to north Belfast and to the workers and their families".
"North Belfast is an area of high unemployment and this jobs blow would be hugely significant," he said.
The company has been operating at Duncairn Gardens since 2001 and employs 600 people.
In 2009 it announced it was investing over £540,000 with the help of Invest NI in staff training and development.