published Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Merger raises jobs concerns about Chattanooga T-Mobile call center

By the numbers

* 400 - Number of employees at the Chattanooga call center

* 480 - Number of employees at the Nashville call center

* 17 - Call centers operated by T-Mobile in the United States

* 7 - Number of call centers closed last June by T-Mobile

* 8.9 million - Number of MetroPCS customers

* 42 million - Number of T-Mobile USA customers

Sources: T-Mobile, MetroPCS

T-Mobile insists its proposed merger with Metro PCS will strengthen its competitive position against bigger rivals to create more business at its call centers in Chattanooga, Nashville and 15 other communities.

But a labor union trying to organize T-Mobile call centers wants regulators to make the companies guarantee they won't ship telemarketing operations out of the country, if the merger is approved.

"These two companies planning to come together have significant histories of offshoring jobs out of the United States and we don't know what their plans are for the future," said Tony Daley, research economist for the Communications Workers of America (CWA). "We're encouraging these companies to make a commitment to keep their workforces and to develop the expertise of their current workers rather than ship these jobs overseas."

CWA is trying to organize the T-Mobile call centers. But even before the union gains the right to represent any workers at the call centers, CWA officials met last week with state legislators in Nashville and city leaders in Chattanooga to urge them to write letters to regulators about the merger.

Deutsche Teleko, the German-based parent company of T-Mobile, announced plans last year to acquire the Dallas-based MetroPCS and merge the nearly 9 million wireless customers of PCS into T-Mobile USA. The deal must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

In a statement, T-Mobile insists the merger will enhance, not limit, opportunities for the company and its employees when it is completed this spring.

"The combination of T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS will create a stronger carrier, better positioned to compete effectively against the other nationwide carriers as a result of expanded scale, spectrum and financial resources," T-Mobile spokesperson Heidi Merz said. "Importantly, our transaction is not opposed at the Federal Communications Commission by anyone on any grounds, including the Communications Workers of America."

After the merger, T-Mobile and MetroPCS will still be run as separate business units "and as such the merger would have no impact on T-Mobile call centers," Merz said.

"CWA's claims about jobs are based on pure speculation and unsupported by any facts," she said. "T-Mobile is proud of the dedicated employees at our call center in Chattanooga....and we plan to continue hiring in 2013."

The Chattanooga call center, which T-Mobile opened in 2005, has contributed more than $184 million into the local economy, Merz said.

CWA officials said they worry because T-Mobile shut down seven call centers a year ago. The U.S. Department of Labor ultimately ruled that the displaced workers qualified for trade readjustment assistance because the government determined that the jobs were moved to the Philippines and Central America.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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