Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Scott Monroe email@example.com
OAKLAND -- The landmark T-Mobile call center has cut about 300 jobs in recent months and is no longer employing enough workers to justify receiving public subsidies.
Communities contributing money to FirstPark: Anson, Benton, Canaan, China, Clinton, Cornville, Fairfield, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hartland, Manchester, Norridgewock, Oakland, Palmyra, Pittsfield, Readfield, Rome, St. Albans, Sidney, Smithfield, Solon, Starks, Waterville and Winslow.
Those claims are made by union groups and a pair of call center employees, who plan to detail their criticisms at a press conference this afternoon in front of the facility in Oakland's FirstPark complex.
In a news release sent Monday, the groups claimed that the T-Mobile call center has benefited from $7.4 million in tax breaks and state assistance, but in exchange the company promised to create about 900 jobs.
The release, sent by the Communications Workers of America and the Maine AFL-CIO, claims that the call center has recently experienced rapid job cuts, bringing the total number of employees down to 399. T-Mobile officials have previously said the center employs about 700 people.
"This is taking a toll on the community and Mainers are taking action and calling for T-Mobile to make good on their promise of jobs or to return the taxpayer dollars to fund a local jobs training program," the release states.
A T-Mobile official on Monday disputed the claims.
"Unfortunately, this is not the first time the CWA has provided false information as part of their campaign against T-Mobile," said Hernan Daguerre, T-Mobile's director of external communications.
Between 2005 and 2010, T-Mobile USA has received $3.5 million from the state of Maine as incentives for creating jobs, Daguerre said. In addition, T-Mobile "has never laid off employees" at the Oakland call center, which currently employs more than 520, he said.
"T-Mobile has made no commitments or promises to create a specific number of jobs in Maine," Daguerre said. "To receive tax incentives for job creation, T-Mobile is required to file every year and the state awards incentives based on the number of employees paid the required amounts."
Claims about the call center's job cutbacks come amid AT&T's proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA, which operates 24 call centers in the country, including Oakland's facility.
Even as the deal's fate has been thrown into question by a Department of Justice lawsuit, AT&T officials have promised the company would not cut jobs at domestic T-Mobile call centers if the merger with T-Mobile USA were approved.
The local call center is the flagship business and largest single employer in Oakland's FirstPark complex. T-Mobile opened the call center in 2005, investing $17 million to locate in a 78,000-square-foot call center.
The company was attracted to the Oakland location because it found enough skilled workers throughout the central Maine area could fill the center's jobs, officials said at the time.
Claims made in Monday's press release appear to derive from a November 2009 a report created by Washington, D.C.-based group called Good Jobs First, for the Communications Workers of America. The report outlines $62.6 million in economic development subsidies at T-Mobile call centers in the U.S.
The Oakland call center was created in a Pine Tree Development Zone, the report says, enabling it to receive employment tax increment financing. In 2008, for example, it received $793,000 in tax breaks for having 794 jobs, according to the report. The company had received $2.19 million in tax breaks in its first four years of operation and was on track to receive another $4.7 million over the next six years.
The report also says T-Mobile was reimbursed $560,000 through the governor's training initiative out of a total cost of about $3 million for training 700 workers between 2005 and 2007.
In all, the call center's public subsidies amount to more than $7.4 million, according to the report.
Scott Monroe -- 861-9239