FCC unravels AT&T's job saving claims

In its effort to sell its T-Mobile merger, AT&T repeatedly advertised a promise to bring 5,000 wireless call center jobs back to the U.S. if the merger was approved.

Mergers often lead to jobs losses, but AT&T put out a campaign that -- at best -– tried to confuse the issue with its plan to return jobs to the U.S.

The Federal Communication Commission's staff report, released Tuesday, didn't buy any of it. It said the combination of the two firms will result in net job loss.

The FCC's report took issue with every job saving claim made by AT&T.

Along with creating call center jobs, AT&T was prepared to protect other jobs during the merger. It said that non-management employees of T-Mobile, whose job functions are "no longer required" because of the merger, will be offered another position in the combined company.

The FCC staff took that claim apart. It said, first, it's not clear how close the offered position would be to an employee's "no longer required" current job.

Secondly, the FCC staff argued that just because AT&T is promising a job offer, it doesn't mean that employee will take it. T-Mobile employees offered new jobs may reject them because of the pay, the location, and the job role, "potentially leading to a large de facto reduction in direct employment," said the FCC.

AT&T also said, according to the FCC, that the merger will not result in any job losses for U.S. based wireless call center employees of T-Mobile or AT&T who are on the payroll when the merger closes.

FCC staff pointed out that AT&T didn't specify how long the jobs will remain in the U.S., and also noted that the promise doesn't apply to domestically outsourced positions, which account for some unknown number of AT&T jobs. (The data on the number of outsourced jobs was confidential and not included in the report.)

The FCC staff didn't put a lot a weight on the call center job claim.

It pointed out that call center turnover is high, "so that even if employees are retained on the day of closing, if new employees are not hired to compensate for normal attrition, the number of domestic call-center jobs as a result of the proposed transaction could dwindle rapidly over time."

In a footnote in the report, the FCC said that as companies move jobs overseas in the first place, "it is not clear the degree to which they should get credit for committing to move them back."


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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