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AT&T Hangs Up On Customer Service Outsourcing

An agreement with its union will create 2,000 new unionized jobs at its U.S. operations and eliminate the use of low-wage foreign call centers to provide customer support for its home broadband business.
AT&T said late Thursday that it will create 2,000 new unionized jobs at its U.S. operations under a plan that would see the telecom giant eliminate the use of low-wage foreign call centers to provide customer support for its home broadband business.

"We were able to create these jobs at competitive salaries," says an AT&T spokesman. The positions will pay $30,000 per year plus benefits. AT&T is implementing the plan in cooperation with the Communications Workers of America, the union that represents telecom workers at the company. AT&T will start adding the positions beginning in mid-2007. It hasn't yet decided where it will place the workers, the spokesman says.

CWA officials welcomed the move. "Reversing the flow of work from contractors back to our bargaining units is a terrific achievement," said CWA executive VP Jeff Rechenbach, in a statement.

AT&T insists it made the decision to repatriate the jobs after successfully bargaining "competitive" wages with the CWA. But customer pressure to improve service may also have been a factor. Users of AT&T's home DSL service frequently pillory the company on online bulletin boards and blogs. A poster on DSLreports.com complains that AT&T's "India tech support doesn't know anything." AT&T's spokesman declined to identify the vendor currently handling the company's offshore DSL support.

AT&T is now creating the U.S. based position of Tier 1 customer assistant to handle tech support for DSL users. It's the second group of jobs that AT&T and the CWA have agreed to create in recent months. The company and the union recently worked out a plan to hire in-home technical services reps for AT&T's U-verse digital video services.