The union representing AT&T workers in Connecticut is questioning the company’s motives after learning this week that the telecommunications giant plans to eliminate 151 jobs in the state by early November.
Union leaders with the Communications Workers of America Local 1298 said Wednesday that, having met with company managers this week and learning of the layoffs, the proposed job cuts make “no sense.” The jobs are slated to be cut by Nov. 5, and the bulk of them — 137 positions — are tied to AT&T’s land-line service, said Local 1298 President William Henderson. The rest are part of AT&T Business Solutions, he said.
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said the company continues to see a decline in demand for its land-line services. The company said that, because of increased competition, it has gone from having 100 percent of the local wireline business in the state to less than 50 percent.
“We work to match our work force to the needs of the business,” he said. “While we’re reducing some jobs in our shrinking wire-line business, we continue to hire in those areas of the business that are growing, particularly wireless and video.” But Henderson and the union question the layoffs in light of state regulators’ recent finding that the company has failed to meet service standards. The union also claims people working in the jobs slated to be cut are working 50 to 60 hours a week and still can’t catch up with demand that has swelled because of short-staffed crews.
The company said those being laid off will have an opportunity to apply for U-verse technician jobs at their current rate of pay. The union representing the workers said there the company is not, however, hiring enough jobs to cover those being eliminated.
“The true issue here is that it’s not a lack of work. It’s a question, I believe, of profits and greed at the expense of service,” Henderson said.” Richter, however, said many of the technicians being affected by the job cuts have, for about two years, been temporarily assigned to other parts of AT&T because there is not enough wire-line work for them.
Henderson said AT&T, per its contract with the union, will try to find other jobs within the company for workers whose positions are being eliminated — but workers worry that any other jobs likely will pay less than the positions that are being eliminated, he said.
Union and company officials continue to discuss how the planned layoffs will be done and what will happen to the affected workers, Henderson said.
Richter said AT&T is doing all it can for workers. “As we always do, we will work hard to care for these impacted employees,” he said, adding that most unionrepresented workers in the affected areas have a guaranteed job offer from AT&T in selected subsidiaries in Connecticut and many will be able to apply for jobs at their current pay rate.
Company officials expect the impact of the cuts to be mitigated somewhat by workers who volunteer for enhanced severance packages, he said.
Shortly after the announcement was made, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal released a statement saying, “I am determined to challenge these 151 layoffs that will potentially harm not only the workers and their families, but also service quality for customers. I will immediately seek review and action by the Department of Public Utility Control, which has recognized AT&T’s past failures to meet service quality standards by imposing $1.1 million in fines. I will also investigate and explore all of the facts and potential remedies. Reducing the workforce that services telephone lines in the face of existing challenges forcing overtime and other measures seems like a recipe for harming our economy, workers and consumers.”