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Union raps new layoffs by AT&T

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AT&T is laying off up to 41 landline workers in Connecticut, a move the union denounced Thursday.

AT&T Spokesperson Marty Richter confirmed the layoffs first reported by Bill Henderson, president of Communication Workers of American union Local 1298. Richter said everyone being laid off has a job offer within the company in Connecticut, while some can choose a severance package for early retirement.

The company has 5,500 employees in Connecticut, said Richter. However, Henderson said the layoffs have fallen "under the radar" because they have been coming in sporadically over the course of years. In October, AT&T laid off 152 landline (telephone) repair employees, said Henderson, a figure Richter did not dispute.

"It's death by 1,000 slices," Henderson said. "The point is, we haven't finished that process (with the most recent layoffs) before they came along with another layoff on top of that. What we're saying is, AT&T are corporate bandits because they're keeping the rich rich, the poor poor and taking away the jobs of the working class."

Richter said the people in the positions being eliminated don't interact with customers and do not work in the field.

The union has scheduled a press conference for today at 10 a.m. at AT&T Corporate Headquarters at 310 Orange St. in New Haven.

Landline, or wireline, business refers to the use of phones that are hardwired into buildings, as opposed to wireless cell phone service. A decade ago, AT&T had 100 percent of those customers, but today the company has less than 45 percent in an increasingly competitive market pursued by other types of providers, he said.

"We continue to lose about 10,000 access lines in the state every month, many of those to non-union companies," he said. "We work consistently to match our workforce to the needs of the business, so while we're shedding some jobs in our shrinking wireline business, we continue to add jobs in parts of our business that are growing, particularly our wireless and U-verse business."

The company is hiring 50 wireless retail sales and service workers in Connecticut and 40 U-verse technicians, after hiring 30 U-verse technicians in December, he added. U-verse provides interactive television programming.

"We remain the largest private employer of union labor in the country and the nation's only unionized wireless company," Richter said. "AT&T provides excellent service and we remain committed to providing excellent service."

Henderson added that customer service has suffered from the layoffs, and will continue to be hurt by additional staff cuts.

In a report to state regulators last year on service, AT&T restored service within 24 hours 58 percent of the time in the month of November, far short of the objective of 90 percent, according to state documents. In addition, last year the state Department of Public Utility Control imposed a $1.1 million fine against the company for poor customer service.

"They're using the excuse that they don't have enough employees, yet they're laying those people off," said Henderson.

Richter countered, "The proposed fine is the product of a single outdated service measurement from the last century that has been lingering virtually unchanged for more than a decade while the world of communications technology has changed around it."


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