OAKLAND — Union officials have launched a website that takes explicit aim at the T-Mobile call center in FirstPark in an attempt to shine a light on allegations of recent layoffs and job stress.

The site, oaklandstickstogether.org, was created by the Communication Workers of America and the Maine State AFL-CIO, which has been consulting with workers. The employees are not represented by a union.

A statement on the site says that dozens of workers have complained about stress and anxiety under more stringent company “metrics,” and that T-Mobile has been “fighting unemployment claims” made by dismissed employees. The site includes a discussion board for employees, photos and videos from a national CWA website.

“Many of us have seen local doctors because of panic attacks and general anxiety caused by so much stress,” the website says. “We are told that some doctors in and around Oakland have noticed an uptick in such cases, and have started to call it ‘T-Mobile disease.'”

Tim Dubnau, an organizer for the CWA, said flyers were being distributed to call center employees to advertise the website.

T-Mobile USA officials deny the union’s claim of layoffs. The call center is the flagship employer in Oakland’s FirstPark complex, which is a commercial park partially subsidized by 24 communities in central Maine.

In a statement, the company responded to the new website by saying the CWA’s portrayal of the call center is inaccurate.

“T-Mobile recognizes and supports the rights of its employees to choose whether or not to be represented by a union; however, we remain convinced that it is better for both T-Mobile employees and our business to maintain a direct working relationship between management and employees,” the company’s statement said.

T-Mobile also said employees receive competitive compensation and benefits, including medical, dental, vision and life insurance, as well as a 401(k) and educational assistance. The company said it chose to open the Oakland call center in 2005 “because of the friendly, highly motivated workforce we could attract, train and retain.”

“Since then, Oakland has been among our top-performing call centers and our company has been consistently recognized as a ‘Best Place to Work’ in Maine,” the company statement said.

Last month, a pair of current call center employees joined union officials for a press conference outside the facility in which they claimed mass firings in recent months — reducing the center’s total work force from about 700 to fewer than 400 — and a hiring freeze. They called T-Mobile to return millions of dollars in public subsidies its received for job creation.

T-Mobile officials disputed the layoff claims and said the center has about 520 employees and never promised a certain number of jobs.

Earlier this year, company officials said the center had about 700 employees.

Adam Fisher, spokesman for the state Department of Labor, said Friday that the state agency did recently hold a session for former T-Mobile call center employees. The team assists laid-off or fired workers with information on unemployment benefits and job training services.

Only a handful of people showed up to the session, Fisher said.

“The people we interacted with — with regard to job loss at T-Mobile — were not necessarily under the impression that a large, or any sort of layoffs necessarily happened,” Fisher said. “People could have lost their jobs because of performance issues. And in the event it’s a performance issue, they may be able to file for unemployment, as long as it’s not due to misconduct.”

Dan DiGirolamo, director of customer care at T-Mobile’s call center in Oakland, said in a recent opinion piece published in the Morning Sentinel that any job reductions have been the result of natural attrition. T-Mobile’s call volumes have decreased in recent months, he said, and self-help options for customers have allowed the company to not need as many employees.

“Today, we are staffed right in Oakland, and my focus is to continue to make T-Mobile the best place for them to work and grow their careers,” DiGirolamo wrote.

Looming over the jobs dispute is AT&T’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA, which operates 24 call centers in the country, including Oakland’s facility. The deal’s fate has been thrown into question by a Department of Justice lawsuit seeking to block the purchase on the grounds that it would lead to higher wireless prices and fewer choices for consumers. T-Mobile USA’s current owner is Deutsche Telekom AG, Germany’s largest phone company.

AT&T has promised that the company would not cut jobs at domestic T-Mobile call centers if the merger with T-Mobile USA were approved.

Scott Monroe — 861-9239

[email protected]


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