1,000 local Verizon jobs to be lost Verizon to close 2 local contact centers

1,000 jobs will

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About 1,000 local jobs will be affected when Verizon Wireless closes its customer contact centers in Cranberry and Warrendale in May as part of a national realignment of 5,000 employees, the company announced Wednesday.

Verizon Wireless said a total of five customer contact centers will close in May. For the 1,000 local customer service employees affected, options are to apply for other positions locally, to relocate to one of 26 out-of-state customer contact centers or to accept a severance package.

Employees eligible for out-of-state relocation will receive a $10,000 relocation assistance package. The company also is offering employees seeking to visit out-of-state centers $500 toward travel costs.

At the Cranberry center, approximately 600 customer service employees will relocate to out-of-state centers -- including a facility 211 miles away in Hilliard, Ohio -- and 40 non-customer service employees will relocate to the Warrendale facility.

At the Warrendale center, approximately 200 telesales employees will be offered relocation to Tampa, Fla.; Rancho Cordova, Calif.; or Orangeburg, N.Y. An additional 230 business and government account employees will be offered relocation to Hilliard, Ohio; Hanover, Md.; or Alpharetta, Ga. The Warrendale regional headquarters will remain open with approximately 340 employees.

The offices will shut down May 8.

The other centers affected are in Meriden, Conn.; Irvine, Calif.; and Folsom, Calif.

Laura Merritt, spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless, said the closings are part of a national strategy to fill empty spaces and maximize use of company properties. She noted that the move, which affects 5,200 jobs nationally, also involves 2,200 employees who will transfer to locations within driving distance of their current locations.

The realignment and potential for relocation could be seen as a relief to employees fearing layoffs for the past few years. In June, the company outlined a $2 billion cost-cutting plan that led to hundreds of layoffs across locations in Youngstown, Ohio; Sacramento, Calif.; and Atlanta. Jobs in Dublin, Ohio, were shifted to a nearby location. 

As part of the realignment, Ms. Merritt said all employees in good standing and holding customer contact positions -- customer service, telesales and business account support -- will be given the option to apply for a new position or to relocate. All who choose relocation will be eligible for the $10,000 package.

For as much as the relocation option will help employees, it could hurt local communities in equal measure, according to some officials.

Stan Kosciuszko, president of the Butler County Chamber of Commerce, said the closing will have an impact on retail, restaurants and other businesses in the Cranberry area.

While Butler County prides itself on a diversified employment base and has seen much job growth in recent years, "to lose that many jobs is not a good thing," he stressed.

"It definitely will be a bump in the road, but I don't think it's a big pothole. I wasn't happy when I read [about the closing]. In our economy, any job loss is not a good thing," he said.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said such closings have become "part and parcel of that industry" and the changes within it.

Mr. Fitzgerald said the losses may be more than offset by the jobs and companies moving into the region. He also pointed out that some of the jobs will be transferred to Hilliard, Ohio, and Hanover, Md., and thus remain in what he considers the tri-state region.

But it's still disappointing, he said.

"We're certainly not happy when we see this type of thing," he said. "Obviously it's not good news."

Bloomberg News contributed. Deborah M. Todd: dtodd@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1652. Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.

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