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Union plans rally Saturday to support T-Mobile jobs in Wichita

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 21, 2013, at 6:49 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, March 21, 2013, at 6:49 p.m.

Representatives of organized labor led by officials from the Communications Workers of America will hold a rally Saturday afternoon at wireless provider T-Mobile’s Wichita call center.

They say their aim is to preserve the center’s hundreds of jobs.

Tammy Chaffee of CWA Local 6402 said she expected at least 50 to 100 people to attend the rally at 2525 N. Woodlawn, but is unsure how many will show if the area gets hit with a winter storm, which is forecast.

“We’re still planning on it, barring a major snowstorm,” Chaffee said Thursday.

The purpose of the rally is to encourage T-Mobile to retain its call centers and employees after completion of a merger with Metro PCS. “We’re trying to highlight the job security issue going into this merger with Metro PCS,” she said.

Last week the Federal Communications Commission approved the plan to merge T-Mobile USA and Metro PCS, the country’s fourth and fifth largest wireless providers, respectively. Under the deal, T-Mobile’s German parent, Deutsche Telekom, will own 74 percent of the combined company and Metro PCS shareholders the remainder. Metro PCS shareholders are expected to vote on the merger next month.

Chaffee said CWA’s concern is that T-Mobile will close its U.S. call centers and send the work overseas. “We’ve been putting pressure on T-Mobile to make guarantees to not close any more call centers or lay off workers as part of this merger,” she said. “There’s no reason for them not to do that. They certainly have a history of outsourcing a lot of work.”

Last year, the company closed seven U.S. call centers, including one in Lenexa.

Asked about the union’s concerns and the call centers’ future, T-Mobile responded with this statement: “We continue to hire in all of our call centers, and we provide competitive pay, benefits and an excellent workplace environment.”

Chaffee said the Wichita call center has about 350 employees.

CWA has attempted to organize the Wichita call center workers but has been unsuccessful so far. “There are people who are actively working there who have committed to organizing that location,” said Chaffee. She said CWA Local 6402 represents AT&T workers.

Speaking at the rally will be representatives of Ver.di, which is the union in Germany that represents Deutsche Telekom workers. Chaffee said she’s hoping that other speakers will be current and past T-Mobile employees, including one who worked at the company’s Frisco, Texas, call center that was closed.

Chaffee said she also expects representatives of the American Postal Workers Union 735, Machinists Union and Wichita/Hutchinson Labor Federation to attend.

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com.

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