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8/25/2008
04:17 PM
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Embarq To Trim 4% Of Workforce

The former Sprint landline operator will confront its declining customer base by dropping 1,000 company and contract positions.

Embarq, the nation's fourth-largest landline telecommunications provider, reported that it is confronting a drop in its landline customer base by dropping nearly 1,000 company and contract positions.

Formerly the landline operation of Sprint, the Overland, Kan., company said it will trim between 500 and 700 company jobs from its payrolls, initially through "voluntary separation" to be followed by involuntary cuts if needed. Supervisors and managers will first be asked to take voluntary buyouts, followed by requests to rank-and-file employees to do the same.

The firm indicated it is also pressured by high oil costs and by customers dropping their landline service when they sign up for cell phone service.

"We are caught in the moment in the changes in the communications industry and the general downturn of the economy," said E.J. Holland, the company's VP of human resources and communications, according to media reports.

Traditional telecommunications companies have been losing their landline customers and are struggling to deal with the trend in a number of ways. AT&T is emphasizing its iPhone partnership with Apple while Verizon Communications has been balancing the drop in its landline operations by building its Verizon Wireless unit. Verizon also spun off its landline operation in northern New England, with FairPoint Communications taking over the operation.

Embarq said the new round of job cuts will affect from 3% to 4% of its 17,000-member workforce; in addition, some 300 contract workers are slated to lose their positions. The firm said it has 6.02 million customer lines, down 170,000 access lines in its latest quarter.

Late last year, Sprint Nextel's directors plucked Daniel R. Hesse out of the Embarq post and named him president and chief executive of Sprint Nextel, where he, too, has instituted layoffs.

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