By Jeff Keeling
Since December, Sprint employees everywhere had known the mobile phone company was planning job cuts in the near future. Today, more than 400 workers at Sprint’s Blountville call center learned they would be among the casualties. The center will close Feb. 5, Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton said in an emailed statement.
Sprint leaders spoke in December of plans to take up to $2.5 billion of costs out of the business. Singleton said, With retail customer service moving toward more of a self-serve and digital customer care model,” the company expects fewer calls to its “Customer Care facilities” (such as the Blountville center).
“As a result, through thoughtful consideration, today we notified employees that we’ve made the decision to close our Bristol/Blountville customer care facility …,” Singleton said.
Employees will get two weeks severance pay for each full year worked, “and outplacement services,” Singleton said. Had the layoffs been announced to employees after Feb. 1, that severance package would have been half as much, due to a policy change taking effect then that provides just one week of pay per year worked.
Singleton’s statement began with a reference to a “multi-year turnaround strategy,” for Sprint.
In addition to any outplacement services provided by Sprint, workers at the facility – which received state and local incentives when it moved from Bristol, Va. to Sullivan County, Tenn. in 2012 – displaced workers can receive help from the Alliance for Business and Training, NETWORKS-Sullivan County CEO Clay Walker said Friday.
Walker said NETWORKS was working on a couple prospective projects that might be interested in the building after Sprint departs. He added that local leaders knew for awhile a layoff announcement could be coming.
“We didn’t have official word that it would become available (until today), but we’ve already worked with the developer who owns the building on getting information to us so we can forward that to clients immediately,” Walker said. Sullivan County has some growing employers in the same field, he added.
“Teleperformance and Intellihartx here in town are doing well and bringing in people on a fairly regular basis, but still, it’s a lot of people to absorb into the workforce.”
The primary concern, Walker said, is the people who learned they would soon be out of work.
“You hate to have an empty building, but you care more about the people who used to work there,” he said. “That’s where Kathy and her people do such a great job. Our job is to then get somebody else in the building putting people to work, and we’ve already started on that.”