Bell Atlantic's 'no attrition' announcement lacks ring of truth

August 25, 1994|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Sun Staff Writer

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind, saith the Scriptures. If that's the case, someone at Bell Atlantic hath a hurricane on his or her hands.

The Philadelphia-based phone company, which announced a work force reduction of 5,600 positions last week, created an uproar among its employees this week when an internal newsletter gave them the erroneous impression that virtually all those cuts would be layoffs.

Making the worst of a bad situation, a question-and-answer article in Bell Atlantic Week flatly informed already-nervous workers that attrition was not included in the figure of 5,600 over three years.

The statement, which contradicted earlier company assurances, resounded up and down Bell Atlantic's territory from New Jersey to Virginia. One employee in Salisbury described it as a "bombshell."

Charlie Gerhardt, executive vice president of Local 2100 of the Communications Workers of America, said yesterday that the statement in Bell Atlantic Week brought an outpouring of more than 100 calls to his local alone from worried members Tuesday.

"The rumors are flying downtown now," he said. "They have the number to 12,000 in the rumor mill."

But the newsletter's version is, shall we say, inoperative.

"I saw this yesterday and I said, 'Wait a minute, something's wrong,' " said Dave Pacholczyk, a Bell Atlantic spokesman who was quoted last week as saying that attrition was included.

"Q: Does normal attrition count as part of the 5,600?

"A: Normal attrition is not included in the 5,600 number. This figure represents employees the company plans to separate from the payroll under provisions of the existing management separation pay plans or the collective bargaining agreements for associates."

Yesterday, Bell Atlantic's message was: Never mind.

"It could have been written better -- absolutely," Mr. Pacholczyk said. "It could have been less assertive."

What Bell Atlantic meant to say, Mr. Pacholczyk explained, was that attrition alone would not account for all 5,600 positions. There will be layoffs to make up the difference between attrition and 5,600.

Mr. Pacholczyk said companywide attrition runs at about 2,100 a year, which would translate into 6,300 over three years.

While that would indicate no need for layoffs, Mr. Pacholczyk said some might still be necessary to reach 5,600. He said that when people retire those jobs will count as attrition, as will the turnover in parts of the company affected by the reductions. When someone leaves a job in an area where a replacement will be hiredthat will not count toward the 5,600, he said.

Mr. Pacholczyk said Bell Atlantic was preparing a revised statement.

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