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Fur flies in AT&T union punch-up

Outsourcing spat turns nasty

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A war between AT&T and the largest US telecommunications workers union has degenerated into a tit-for-tat spat.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) organized Tuesday protests to chastise AT&T for laying off workers and closing call and customer care centers across the US. In addition, the union lobbed the expected charges of outsourcing at AT&T - something the telco giant did not appreciate.

"This once proud company employed 300,000 workers just ten years ago," said Ralph Maly, a CWA vice president. "Now, AT&T is rapidly getting rid of workers and managers, outsourcing those jobs and sending more work overseas to India, Mexico and other low wage countries."

A CWA statement was filled with even more vitriolic attacks against AT&T, including charges the company has put national security at risk by allowing offshore workers to manage military and government voice and data networks. A group of protesters in Minnesota extended similar charges to the Bush administration and called for the outsourcing of the President - a popular theme from liberals in this election year.

For its part, AT&T turned to harsh language in a statement countering the CWA charges. In reference to the closure of centers in Virginia, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, AT&T said, "These jobs are not being filled elsewhere and any assertion to the contrary is wrong and misguided. It's unfortunate that the CWA is using what is a difficult time for many employees as a means to further its position regardless of the harm to the workers at AT&T."

No-one ever said consolidation was pretty. ®

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