Citicorp cuts 300 bill collectors here

March 25, 1994|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

The economic recovery claimed 300 victims yesterday, as Citicorp announced that the better times made a division of bill collectors unnecessary.

The company said the 300 employees, who work in its Choice Visa and MasterCard division on York Road in Towson, received 60 days' notice yesterday. When their jobs end in mid-May, the company will provide another two months' pay and help in job hunting.

The employees became expendable when the number of delinquent credit card holders started to fall during the past two years, said Citicorp spokeswoman Maria Rullo. As more people started paying their bills on time, the bill collectors' jobs were made unnecessary, she said.

"It's hard to believe that we're losing our jobs because the economy is getting better," said one employee who asked to remain anonymous because she planned to apply for another job at Citicorp.

"Companies are always coming up with something when they want to lay off people."

Citicorp would not release data on its delinquency rates, but national figures show they are at a 19-year low.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported in December that 2.38 percent of credit card holders were delinquent, compared with a rate of more than 4 percent during the 1991 recession.

The local layoffs are part of a pattern for Citicorp, which has been shutting similar operations in New York state and New Jersey. Local employees said they had an inkling that something was afoot for several days, with some employees thinking the entire Choice offices would be closed.

About 1,200 employees work at the York Road offices, so the cuts represent a quarter of the Choice card's work force. The remaining employees will continue to answer customers' phone calls, develop new products and market the Choice card, Ms. Rullo said.

"It makes sense that with the economy growing they'd need fewer people in collections, but we were all relieved that it didn't affect us," said Megan Griffith, an employee in Choice's marketing division.

Other divisions, such as marketing, have openings, Ms. Rullo said, and Citicorp will try to place employees with appropriate skills in Baltimore, or, for those willing to relocate, in another city.

Between May and July, employees can use the Citicorp office for site training in job hunting, she said. Courses will be offered in resume writing, taking interviews and other skills. Departing workers also will receive a package of benefits based on seniority.

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