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After Trump Administration Tax Breaks, AT&T Launches a Wave of Layoffs Affecting Thousands

Phillip Dampier January 31, 2019 AT&T, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

AT&T began laying off thousands of workers Monday, mostly targeting highly skilled and highly paid long-time AT&T employees nearing retirement age.

Many of those laid off this week worked in the company’s wireline division, which supplies landline phone service, fiber and copper-based internet service for residential and commercial customers, and AT&T’s Foundry “innovation” centers. Other affected units include AT&T Technology & Operations, Mobility, Construction and Financing, Entertainment Group, Global Supply, Finance, and DTV (DirecTV).

Many of those targeted for layoffs were approaching 30 years with AT&T, part of an important benchmark allowing employees to retire with maximum benefits. Those who did not quite make it will be offered two weeks pay for every year of service in severance instead, capped at a maximum of six months pay. Affected employees must leave AT&T by Feb. 18 or accept, when available, an alternate position at the company if one can be located within 50 miles of the current job location.

Last year, AT&T claimed that as a result of the passage of significant corporate tax cuts signed into law by President Trump, the company would hire at least 7,000 new workers and invest up to $1 billion in its business. AT&T claims it has already exceeded those commitments, hiring more than 20,000 new employees last year and more than 17,000 the year before, although the company would not confirm if those workers were directly hired by AT&T and in the United States. The Communications Workers of America reports that AT&T eliminated 10,700 union jobs from its payroll in 2018, with at least 16,000 employees replaced by offshore workers. The company had 273,210 employees as of August 2018.

In a leaked internal memo from AT&T’s vice president of technology and operations, Jeff McElfresh warned AT&T would be laying off a significant number of workers this year. The company is seeking a “geographic rationalization” of its current employees to cut a “surplus” of workers.

“To win in this new world, we must continue to lower costs and keep getting faster, leaner, and more agile,” McElfresh told employees. “This includes reductions in our organization, and others across the company, which will begin later this month and take place over several months.”

The wife of one “surplus” worker described how an AT&T manager ended her husband’s 29-year career at AT&T in a scripted, four-minute phone call.

“My husband had 29 years with the company. [He] has been a fiber and copper splicer, engineer, ran a construction crew, and has been an instructor as the subject matter expert in over 50 courses for the last 18 years,” she shared. “His boss called him this morning […] and in less than four minutes told him he was out. Twenty-nine years and you get a call that takes less than 4 minutes?”

Some workers unaffected by the current round of layoffs fear that AT&T gutted some of its most experienced and qualified talent, and worries about the future competence of AT&T to manage its business.

“We lost so many people throughout our work groups that there is no way I can see us being able to support the systems going forward. Can’t happen,” one employee shared. “We even lost people that were in one deep slots without any thought about the impact. Some positions that flat out require multiple people just to support the existing volume of support work and new projects have been reduced to one or less headcount.”







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