02/11/2015 03:53 EST | Updated 04/13/2015 05:59 EDT

Shaw to close customer service centres in Edmonton, Calgary; downsize Kelowna

EDMONTON - Shaw Communications Inc. is hanging up its Alberta customer service centres in a decision that will affect 1,600 employees, including some in British Columbia.

Calgary-based Shaw (TSX:SJR.B) announced Wednesday that it will close its centre in Edmonton in June, its Calgary centre next January and part of its Kelowna, B.C., operation in June.

Chris Kucharski, a Shaw vice-president, said it's part of a plan to improve service by expanding customer centres in four other cities.

"We decided to expand Victoria, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal after looking at the long-term performance of each of our locations," he said.

"Our customers can expect even better and more consistent experiences, whether they are ordering new services, requesting technical support or inquiring about their account."

The consolidation will help centralize knowledge, training and management to better serve Internet, cable, satellite and phone customers, he said.

The changes will affect about 1,000 people in Calgary, 390 in Edmonton and 145 in Kelowna.

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, who represents the Calgary-Foothills constituency, said he plans to speak with Shaw executives about the company's announcement.

"Obviously we are saddened and disappointed," Prentice said at the legislature.

"This will be a difficult circumstance for people who are affected. Certainly we will work hard as a government to deal with the transition."

Alberta has already lost thousands of jobs recently in the energy and related industries due to slumping oil prices.

The company said it is offering employees a choice of money to help pay for a move to another service centre, a chance to apply for a job at their current location in a different department or severance pay.

"We know that change is difficult and we will support them during the process," Kucharski said.

The changes do not affect Shaw's customer service operations in Nanaimo, B.C., and Mississauga, Ont.