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New Rules for Call Centers Help Retain Telecommunications Jobs in CT

Posted on April 6, 2010

To help stop the hemorrhaging of telecommunications jobs in Connecticut, unions have begun setting new rules centering around how call centers are staffed.

Connecticut unions and their allies in the General Assembly have cleared the first hurdle for legislation.

According to the Associated Press, the legislation overcame opposition from telephone companies that denounced it as an attempt to micromanage their business and state regulators who called it discriminatory.

Telephone company employees who call or are called by customers must, upon request, identify the city, state and country where they work, according to the legislation. If the employee is not in Connecticut, the customer can be transferred to a call center in the state “when possible,” or if a call center exists.

In addition, the article said that the state Department of Information Technology, when buying products or services, would be required to give preference to telecommunications companies that have a high percentage of service calls directed to in-state call centers.

The legislation also would require telecommunications companies to provide to the state each year the locations of centers receiving calls from customers in Connecticut.

The bill was approved Tuesday by the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee on a party line vote, with majority Democrats voting in favor and Republicans in opposition.

“It’s pro-jobs,” said Sen. Gary LeBeau, an East Hartford Democrat and a sponsor of the bill. “I think that’s what people’s concerns are right now.”

Rep. Vickie Nardello, co-chairwoman of the committee, said she is concerned that large companies such as AT&T are moving jobs out of the state.

“What’s best for Connecticut’s economy? Jobs,” she said.

Bill Henderson, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1298 in Connecticut, said union membership has dropped nearly 35 percent, from 6,533 in 2001 to 4,277 last year as AT&T has shifted jobs out of state.

“These are good jobs needed in Connecticut,” he said.

Chuck Coursey, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company provided nearly all the traditional local telephone service in Connecticut 15 years ago, but now only provides about half.

“As the wireline portion of AT&T’s business shrinks because of this competition and the dramatic increase in wireless communications, so naturally will its work force,” he said.

The company is adding workers to its growing businesses in video and wireless, Coursey said.

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