A LOST LINK? CenturyLink appears headed out of town
The Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Club 20 urged telecommunications provider CenturyLink in a letter last week to reconsider its recent decision to close down the company’s Grand Junction Small Business call center, local business boosters said.
CenturyLink told nearly 40 employees at its 800 Main St. location last month that they could transfer to work at a CenturyLink Call center in either Minnesota or Arizona, where operations are being consolidated, or face layoffs in four months, a company official said.
“Rather than close ... work with us to increase the size of your operations here,” area business leaders urged in a letter.
“We ask that you provide our community the opportunity to work with your Small Business organization to help offset whatever concerns that may have led to the decision to close this call center,” the letter signed by executive directors of both GJEP and Club 20 said.
“We told them we would work diligently with them to find creative ways to help their existing businesses expand,” GJEP Executive Director Kelly Flenniken said. Flenniken said the local active lifestyle and available training makes the Grand Valley an attractive place for CenturyLink and its employees to remain.
So far, CenturyLink has not responded, she said.
The Mesa County Workforce Center has already reached out to the local call center employees, said Suzie Miller, workforce center business manager.
“We certainly hope to be able to set a time to meet with them to give them their options in terms of services and what to expect if they file for unemployment,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of factors to consider.”
The local economy is still struggling to pull out of the recession, she said. “Certainly, finding employment can still be a challenge and will continue to be, but we have a lot of resources,” Miller said.
Miller confirmed what Flenniken said about retraining.
“There are many short-term programs for in-demand fields,” she said. “Western Colorado Community College has several new fast-track programs. I could see a connection between the skills of the CenturyLink employees and the opportunities available through some of those IT-related certificate programs.”
Depending on qualifications, financial support for retraining could be available she said.
“We want to show them how to file for unemployment and how to get registered,” but that can wait until a little closer to the actual layoff date, she said.
An exact layoff date has not been announced.
“Hopefully, we can arrange to meet with them and make it a transition service as opposed to a layoff service,” Miller said.
The communications industry was identified by a University of Colorado economic study in December as a likely growth sector for the Grand Junction economy, Flenniken said.
“We told them we want them to stay. Mild weather year-round, professional development and ongoing training opportunities, a low cost of living and an exceptional quality of life make Grand Junction a great place to do business,” she said.
“There’s 38 employees impacted,” said Randy Krause, a CenturyLink public relations manager. “They are encouraged to follow their work.”
Employees can choose to transfer to St. Paul or Phoenix, where the company is consolidating all of its call centers, Krause said.
Represented employees will receive a relocation package that includes financial assistance from CenturyLink to make the move, a benefit that was negotiated for them by the local Communications Works union, he said.
Krause said he was unsure of the specific terms.
All employees who choose layoff may be entitled to a severance package of varying amounts depending on their position and term of service with the company. he said.
“This is part of our regular operational review, so we always explore opportunities to reduce cost or provide better value,” Krause said. “This is an ongoing process.”
There are currently fewer than 1,300 communications technology workers employed on the Western Slope, according to the Colorado Department of Labor.
The mean salary for advanced communications technology workers on the Western Slope is around $42,000 a year, the department of labor said.
Mesa County data was not available.