AT&T workers protest plan to close 3 Connecticut call centers

New Haven

AT&T workers protested Monday morning because the telecommunications company wants to move more than a hundred jobs from Meriden to Tennessee and Georgia.

Longtime workers like Paul Scherban of Wethersfield do not want to uproot their families.

“I’ve been working here about 25 years in this building and I work in the 911 center,” Scherban said. “We monitor and maintain 911 networks in 22 states.”

Which is another reason they say moving the jobs is a bad idea. The union representing 89 employees at those call centers, CWA 1298, says the jobs of many of them is to support 911 systems across the country. They say those technical jobs take time to learn, so teaching new people in a different state could be a danger to public safety. 

“It’s nothing that you’re going to pick up and start doing immediately,” said Scherban. “It’s a big learning curve.”

“This 911 work, specifically, if there was some sort of outage, people have had years of experience, exclusively in Connecticut, doing support for that service,” said CWA Local 1298 President David E.  Weidlich, Jr.

However, a spokeswoman for AT&T issued a statement saying there will be no impact to the public. She writes that 911 systems are operated remotely all over the country and location is not a factor. 

In that statement, Kate MacKinnon also writes that most of the people who work in Meriden are not affected by this change. Each employee whose job is heading out of state is offered a $20,000 relocation allowance.

“And let me send an additional message to AT&T: You got a big tax cut,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, standing with the workers. “The condition of that tax cut was more employment, not job cutting.”

Blumenthal says he will be writing to AT&T’s top management that the federal tax cuts on big corporations last year were supposed to help workers. AT&T responded that it hired 20,000 people in the US just last year, including 150 in Connecticut. As for Connecticut native Paul Scherber, his AT&T career seems to be over.

“What’s next is, I guess I’m done. That’s what’s next,” said Scherber. “The shame of it is that it seems totally unnecessary that they’re moving the work there.”

AT&T says the move will increase efficiency and effectiveness.

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