This story has been updated as of June 27 with additional information from AT&T.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – AT&T is cutting 24 jobs in the Louisville area -- mostly service technicians making $50,000 to $80,000 a year -- in what one union representative said is telecom giant's largest round of job cuts locally in recent memory.
Half of the company's 34 "service technicians" in the Louisville region have been designated as "surplus" employees whose jobs will be cut in September, said Todd Robey, vice president of Communications Workers of America Local 3310 in Louisville.
"When you're driving, these are the guys you see -- they're up on the poles, they are coming to your house making a repair if your phone doesn't work or your internet," Robey said.
Update, June 27: After initial publication of this story on Tuesday, AT&T said Thursday that the "service technician" job title is "only one of at least five job titles for techs who help keep our customers in the Louisville area connected." In total, the company employs about 240 technicians in Louisville, so the 17 "service technicians" whose jobs are being cut represent only about 7 percent of the technician workforce.
Robey said the "devastating" cuts are baffling given that his members aren't short on work, and he expects them to work mandatory overtime to cover high-demand situations like outages following storms.
But, in an emailed statement, AT&T spokesman Phil Hayes said the company's "wireline" business -- landline phones, cable TV and internet -- is contracting. AT&T lost 1.9 million wireline "access lines" -- such as landline phones -- in the last three years, a 32 percent drop, he said.
"(T)echnology is changing rapidly and there are fewer jobs in parts of the industry that are declining and facing technology shifts, like our wireline business where these employees work," Hayes said.
Hayes said AT&T "continue(s) to hire in areas where we're seeing increasing demand for products and services."
The Louisville cuts are part of 911 positions AT&T is cutting across its nine-state Region 3 footprint covering the southeastern United States, according to the CWA, which represents technicians, call center employees and other hourly AT&T personnel.
AT&T disclosed the cuts earlier this month, and this week the company and union began talks to renew a four-year labor contract for the nine-state region.
Across Kentucky, 51 positions will be eliminated, Robey said.
The 17 service technicians whose jobs are being cut work on AT&T's copper and fiber lines inside and outside customers' homes, Robey said. AT&T employs a different category of technicians who are limited to in-home installations and repairs, he said.
The cuts are also in AT&T's call center in downtown Louisville, one of the few call centers the company hasn't moved overseas, Robey said.
Because of union-negotiated seniority rules, it's not yet clear which employees will be without a job come September.
That's because more senior workers whose jobs are cut can displace less senior workers in a sort of musical chairs. But for a technician, that could mean taking lower-paying gig like in an AT&T retail store or relocating hundreds of miles, Robey said.
AT&T noted that employees left without a job can enter the company's job bank, where they can continue to get paid for a set number of weeks or even up to a year, based on seniority, and get first dibs on open jobs.