CWA, NY Governor Cuomo slam Verizon over call center closures

A CWA demonstration. Image: CWA

Communications Workers of America came out hard against Verizon's decision to close seven call centers, which could potentially lay off 3,200 workers.

“The bad news for Verizon Wireless workers is getting worse,” said CWA President Chris Shelton in a statement. “Earlier this year, CWA won the return of work from overseas that had been performed by CWA members on the wireline side of the company. However, Verizon Wireless work will continue to be shifted offshore.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also slammed Verizon for the decision, calling it “an egregious example of corporate abuse – among the worst we have witnessed."

Verizon's call center closure doesn't seem to be in the spirit of the agreement it reached with CWA last May, when the company promised to enhance job security at call centers and hire even more workers.

RELATED: CWA members ratify new AT&T Mobility contract

There are some caveats, however: The closures will primarily affect non-unionized workers, and affected employees will be offered jobs in call centers elsewhere in the country, with Verizon offering to pay workers $10,000 or more to cover relocation costs.

Speaking with reporters in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Verizon's EVP of Public Policy and General Counsel Craig Silliman said the closures were simply an unfortunate result of current trends around call volume.

“If you look at the way users are decreasingly using these kinds of services – particularly millennials – they would much rather use the app or online, right? So we've just seen call volumes decline, and that's all this is. We're not moving these jobs overseas, or anything like that, we're just seeing fewer calls come into our call centers” he said.

CWA isn't having it though. “Now Verizon will be able to send even more work to the Philippines, where it already operates call centers, and to other overseas locations. This is exactly what customers, communities and our country don’t need.  The company is trying to sidestep this issue, but our union uncovered the offshoring of Verizon call center work to the Philippines – and the substandard treatment of Filipino workers – early this year,” Shelton said in the statement.

The nation's largest carrier said earlier this week that the move to shutter the call centers was "a very difficult but necessary business decision."

Verizon is hardly the only telco to get heat from CWA this year. In April, T-Mobile came under fire for allegedly creating a company-controlled union to gain ground against CWA. And later in the summer, fierce negotiations between CWA and AT&T came to a head, when a standoff temporarily looked like it end up drawing out negotiations for the rest of the year.

There's no sign yet of what CWA's next move will be if it decides to press the issue on call centers. As it stands, Shelton and the union are seeking “strong allies that include elected leaders,” to keep up the fight.