AT&T to shutter Texas call center as CWA talks drag on

AT&T has been in talks with the CWA for nine months to iron out a new contract.

AT&T is shuttering a call center in El Paso, Texas, in a move that the Communications Workers of America said highlights the carrier’s eagerness to move jobs offshore as contract negotiations drag on between the two.

But the operator said all the affected employees will be offered positions in other AT&T offices.

The El Paso Times reported last week that AT&T will close the call center in December as the company’s workforce in the city ebbs from 2,400 seven years ago to fewer than 500. The carrier—which is based in Dallas—once operated three call centers in El Paso, but a recent CWA report claims AT&T has eliminated 12,000 call center jobs nationwide since 2011.

The union is publicizing the closing to bring attention to its ongoing standoff with the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier. Nearly 40,000 AT&T employees walked off the job during a three-day strike in May, shuttering stores in New York, Los Angeles, Denver and dozens of other cities.

The move marked the first significant strike by AT&T’s wireless workers, although other employees of the company were also involved. The two sides are in their ninth month of talks.

“We are consolidating some customer call center work currently done in El Paso into other company facilities to increase efficiency and better serve our customers,” AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter told FierceWireless via email. “Affected employees will have the opportunity to work in other company facilities, including some at other company locations in El Paso and San Antonio. We’re offering a relocation allowance for those who would have to move. We’ll give those who choose not to do so priority consideration for positions in the area, and we’ll work to place as many of them as possible.”

The contract at the heart of the negotiations covers roughly 20,000 AT&T Mobility employees in 36 states, which accounts for roughly 7% of the carrier’s workforce, the company said.

The CWA was involved in a 45-day strike last year by 40,000 Verizon wireline workers that ended in June. That stoppage slowed Verizon’s network investment slightly during the second quarter, according to analysts, and ended with agreements that a union representative described as “an incredible victory” for the workers. AT&T reportedly hasn’t suffered a significant work stoppage since a two-day walkout in 2012.