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Union: AT&T cuts about 200 workers at Pa. centers

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- AT&T will close one Pittsburgh call center and curtail operations at another, a spokesman said Saturday, and about 200 western Pennsylvania workers will be affected, the union said.

"Significant declines in call volumes" at the landline centers as customers move to wireless service led to the cutbacks, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said.

The workers are members of CWA Locals 13500 and 13550 in Pittsburgh and service calls from AT&T business customers and consumer sales. Local 13500 President Sandy Kmetyk late Friday called it "devastating news." Officials said the decision came as a surprise to business customer care workers because the office "has been working overtime for six months to keep up with the current workload."

More than half of the business customer care center workers will be eligible for other positions within the same building, which will remain open, and the rest will receive a relocation allowance if they wish to move to another center in Syracuse, N.Y., Richter said. The building lease at the consumer sales center is ending and that building will close, with employees receiving a relocation allowance if they wish to move to a center in Lee's Summit, Mo., he said.

Workers who choose not to relocate can apply for other AT&T positions in the area, and those who leave the company will receive severance, Richter said.

Kmetyk said in a statement that the company made a commitment to the union during recent contract talks "to preserve work and bring new work to the call centers." The local unions have scheduled a rally Tuesday morning at the AT&T location in Pittsburgh.

Richter said AT&T has lost more than 48 percent of its wired access lines, nearly 30 million lines, as consumers increasingly rely solely on wireless phones. The company is continuing to hire in sectors that are growing and remains the largest employer of full-time union labor in the country, he said.