TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: SBC Cutting Work Force; Blames Competition

SBC Cutting Work Force; Blames Competition

Thomas Content (
Sat, 10 Sep 2005 17:39:01 -0500
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SBC to cut 200 jobs in state
Company blames rise in competition from cellular, cable, Internet

SBC is eliminating more than 200 jobs in Wisconsin, including 127 in
downtown Milwaukee, in response to heightened competition from
cellular phone providers and lower demand for traditional phone

The company on Friday notified workers in downtown Milwaukee that 127
of 440 customer service representative positions will be eliminated by
Dec. 15, SBC spokesman Jeff Bentoff said.

The telecommunications company is scaling back certain operations
given competitive pressure posed by cellular phones and the emergence
of cable and Internet telephone services, Bentoff said.

For Milwaukee, it's the biggest cutback since SBC eliminated hundreds
of jobs when it closed an office on N. 35th St. in 1998, said George
Walls, president of Local 4603 of the Communications Workers of

"It was very shocking to the people this morning and very sad, and
many of them were in tears," Walls said. "These are good-paying jobs,
and I see it as really a blow to lose these jobs in the city of

Wages for the workers whose jobs are being eliminated run from about
$400 to $974 a week, Walls said. Local 4603 represents about 2,200 SBC
hourly workers in southeastern Wisconsin. SBC employs more than 5,000
people in Wisconsin, Bentoff said.

The company also confirmed a series of other cuts that include the
loss of 47 network support positions in Wisconsin, including 23 at an
office at N. 77th St. and W. Fond du Lac Ave. in Milwaukee and 24 in
Eau Claire. Those workers will be offered the option of transferring
to offices in Indiana and Ohio, where their functions will be
consolidated, said David Saltz, another SBC spokesman. Three positions
based in Brookfield are also being eliminated, SBC said.

In a separate cutback initiated earlier this year, 40 SBC workers at
SBC's office at 918 N. 26th St. in Milwaukee are expected to be laid
off on Wednesday, Walls said.

SBC, based in San Antonio, said last fall that it would eliminate
about 10,000 jobs by the end of this year in response to competitive
pressures in the industry.

The downtown Milwaukee office handles wholesale business, meaning
requests for service connection by companies that sell phone service
but that rely on SBC's network of telephone lines and wires to deliver
the service. It is one of three such offices across the Upper Midwest,
fielding business in Wisconsin and four other states.

That wholesale business was booming so much that it was hiring
hundreds of new employees downtown five years ago, but business has
fallen off significantly there, Bentoff said.

"Order volumes have decreased, and there's just not as much work --
there's not enough work available for those positions," he said.

SBC will work with the union to find other jobs for workers whose
positions are being eliminated, or to offer severance packages for
employees that are approaching retirement age, he said. It's unclear
how many workers' jobs will be saved from layoffs.

But the cuts are likely to affect those with the least seniority
because of union bumping rights, Walls said. That means that those
most affected by the cuts will be those hired since roughly May 2000,
he said.

That also means that some of the workers laid off in the last big
round of cuts -- the 1998 closing of the 35th St. customer service
calling center -- face the prospect of being laid off again.

"Some of those people (who lost their jobs in 1998) wound up downtown
in these jobs, and now they're being hit again," Walls said.

From the Sept. 10, 2005, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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