Bell Atlantic to shut 4 sites in Maryland

January 13, 1995|By Michael Dresser and Ross Hetrick | Michael Dresser and Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writers

Bell Atlantic Corp. said yesterday that it will close four offices in Maryland, affecting hundreds of jobs, as part of its plan to shed 5,600 positions over the next three years.

The closings are part of the first stage of a work force reduction that the Philadelphia-based phone company announced last August.

Dave Pacholczyk, a Bell Atlantic spokesman in Baltimore, said 1,700 jobs throughout the company would be affected in this round, but he stressed that the reduction would not be entirely from layoffs.

Mr. Pacholczyk said he could not provide an estimate of the total number of jobs that will be abolished in Maryland in this round, but he said Bell Atlantic tried to spread the cuts evenly around its operating region of six states, plus Washington, D.C.

Yesterday was the day Bell Atlantic began breaking the news to the affected employees -- most of them operators, customer service workers, direct marketing people and their managers. Installers and network maintenance were spared in this round, Mr. Pacholczyk said.

The Maryland offices where employees received the grim news included an operator services center that employs 106 workers in Glen Burnie. The others were a business office in Hagerstown, a small business service center in Calverton and a direct marketing center in Silver Spring. The closings will be phased in from mid-1995 to mid-1996, Mr. Pacholczyk said.

Maevon C. Garrett, president of Local 2110 of the Communication Workers of America, said company officials had told her that some of the Glen Burnie workers would be transferred to other offices when the office closes late this year.

"We can't tell that all the people are going to be absorbed because they did not tell us that. They told us they are going to try," said the union official, a 30-year phone company veteran.

She said the company broke the news about 3 p.m. "Most of them have gone through it before, once or even twice," she said. "Nobody broke down, but they were upset. They didn't know where they would fit into the scenario."

One worker emerged from the office wearing a union button showing the word "LAYOFFS" with a slash through it. The 42-year-old woman, who did not want to give her name, said she was shocked at the news.

"I didn't expect this to happen because I thought business is good. Bell Atlantic is a rich company, in my opinion. . . . ," she said. "It's real hard to get back on the board afterward and work and give good customer service."

News of the shutdowns brought a bitter response from Peter G. Catucci, district vice president of the CWA, which represents about three-quarters of the affected workers.

"They're having trouble providing quality service right now, so I don't see how they can justify further closings," he said.

But Mr. Pacholczyk said that the changes will bring improvements in service. "There is equipment coming on line that will help employees be more efficient," he said.

Mr. Pacholczyk said some of the workers at the closed centers will be moved to consolidated offices in other locations. Others will be offered early retirement, and employees who are actually laid off will be offered help in finding new jobs inside or outside the company.

Michael Balhoff, a telecommunications analyst at Legg Mason, said Bell Atlantic's cuts are part of a broader trend in a telephone industry that faces more competition.

"All the regional Bells are going to have to get increasingly more cost-conscious," he said.

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