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AT&T to Shutter Call Center, Lay Off More than 100

Layoffs

**Editor’s Note: Click here for the latest edition of the Channel Partners telecom and IT layoff tracker.**

It’s been a bleak start to the year for AT&T employees in legacy technologies.

MLive reports that Michigan Bell Telephone Company (an AT&T subsidiary) will close one of its call centers, entailing a layoff for all of the location’s 114 employees. The vast majority are service representatives. The employees will lose their jobs on or near the March 28 closing.

AT&T sent a letter to the Michigan Workforce Development Agency Jan. 25 to disclose the plans. Communication Workers of America (CWA) represents the call-center workers and will negotiate for their “bumping rights,” which allow a more senior employee to take the position of a lower-tier employee.

This closure comes as AT&T and CWA prepare to discuss a new Midwest contract. The union blasted AT&T in a statement last week, saying that company management and investors are benefiting from tax cuts at the expense of their employees.

“On top of all this, AT&T announced layoffs of techs and customer service reps, while continuing to outsource work to low-wage vendors both in the U.S. and offshore. CWA is taking this on, filing lawsuits and grievances, and making sure those who are laid off get every penny of pay, severance, and other benefits to which they are entitled,” the union wrote.

AT&T already faces a lawsuit from CWA for its planned layoff of 713 employees, including 152 premises technicians. The company says it is growing overall while trying figure out what to do with traditional technologies that are declining in popularity. AT&T has praised legislative successes like the repeal of net neutrality and the passed tax-reform law as moves that will benefit the working class.

But as AT&T and its competitors pursue network virtualization and other digital technologies, some of its employees may be left behind.

“We’re adding people in many parts of our business that are experiencing higher customer demand. At the same time, technology improvements are driving higher efficiencies and there are some areas where demand for our legacy services continues to decline, and we’re adjusting our workforce in some of those areas,” spokesman Marty Richter said earlier this month.

Richter said AT&T is working to find jobs for 713 employees who already learned this year that they will get the axe. The future for the 114 Michigan call-center workers is unclear.

Both AT&T and CWA got good news in the finalization of their long-awaited and long-negotiated Orange Contract, which CWA members ratified Jan. 12. More than 20,000 wireless workers get significant pay raises and benefit increases as a result.

Meantime, wireless workers from AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are meeting in Orlando, Florida, to discuss offshoring, outsourcing and pay increases. Wireless Workers United contains union-represented and non-union employees, but appears to be affiliated with CWA.

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