Update: AT&T has reached out to us with a statement regarding its employee adjustments. AT&T's statement: "We are hiring to meet the needs of the growth areas of our business. In fact, we hired more than 20,000 new employees last year and more than 17,000 the year before. In cases where we do have to adjust our workforce, we take steps to lessen the effect on employees."
AT&T is preparing to let go of an unspecified number of employees from no fewer than ten operation hubs in the lead-up to the closing of its merger with Time Warner, according to leaked internal documents.
Provided by an unnamed employee, the leak consisted of a memo sent out to the company's management staff by AT&T President of Technology & Operations, Jeff McElfresh. Locations listed in that indicated the layoffs would primarily affect New York, California, Texas, New Jersey, Washington, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and Washington DC.
A spokesperson reportedly confirmed that AT&T would be moving to "adjust" its workforce.
A "source at AT&T" referred to the action as a reduction to its "surplus" of employees and plans for the layoffs are expected to be finalized by the end of the month. While not necessarily related, that would imply that plans are intended to be finished just as the company is wrapping up its $85 billion merger deal with Time Warner.
The two companies will no longer be forced to operate as separate entities in February.
This is nothing new for AT&T
The memo also made reference to lowering costs and "getting faster, leaner, and more agile," but this is hardly the first time AT&T has made changes that are arguably harmful to its workforce to accomplish that goal.
As of August, the mobile service provider and now media mogul had already closed down 44 call centers from 2011. Many of the jobs in those call centers have since been moved to overseas locations where employees can be hired for as little as $2 per hour. More recent reductions and disagreements with employees have also been set against a backdrop of record profits from quarter to quarter over the past several years.
In early 2018, those profits equated to around $10 billion with the company spending as much as $16.45 billion to buy back stock over the preceding five years.
Tax breaks supported by and ultimately benefiting the carrier brought back around $20 billion. Some of that, around $1,000 in bonuses, was later returned to approximately 200,000 of its employees but those bonuses were later discovered to have been negotiated prior to their delivery. In total, the company's profits rose from around $13 billion in 2016 to approximately $29.5 billion in 2017 as a result of tax reductions.
Further benefits followed when the FCC, backed by AT&T and several other telecoms and technology companies, effectively dismantled net neutrality regulations in mid-2018. The regulations had been put in place to limit ISPs and other companies' handling of internet traffic, ensuring that all traffic was treated equally without throttling, among other restrictions. AT&T was among several other service providers that argued the regulations were unnecessary and stifling competition.
Over the past several years, threats to workers' jobs whether at AT&T or other carriers have typically resulted in intervention and negotiations involving the Communications Workers of America (CWA) labor union. There's no guarantee that will happen in this case and, as outlined above, it hasn't always protected workers when the union gets involved. But it would certainly spell trouble in the case of AT&T.
Historically, negotiations between the two organizations haven't always gone smoothly, often resulting in worker strikes and AT&T being forced to offer more compensation and protections for its union associated employees.