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Verizon Wireless to close Marshall, Cranberry call centers, cut 1,000 jobs

Cars leaves the Verizon Wireless building in Warrendale Wednesday, February 12, 2014. Verizon announced that it will close contact centers in Warrendale and Cranberry, relocating jobs. Heidi Murrin Tribune-Review

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Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 4:33 p.m.

Verizon Wireless will slice more than 1,000 jobs in Western Pennsylvania when it closes customer call centers in Cranberry and Marshall in May, the company said on Wednesday.

“This was a very difficult but necessary business decision,” Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Laura Merritt said in a statement.

The Cranberry call center employs about 600 customer service workers in the Cranberry Woods business park. The one in neighboring Marshall will lose about 430 workers, including 200 in telemarketing and 230 in business and government support.

A Verizon regional headquarters for Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia will remain in Marshall, preserving 340 jobs.

“We are always sorry to see a business close in Cranberry Township and the impact that has on the employees,” said Cranberry manager Jerry Andree.

Several Verizon employees declined to comment on the company's decision outside the local call centers.

Verizon is making the changes amid signs that competition is heating up in the wireless market. Rivals AT&T Inc., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. all have been rolling out less expensive subscription plans in an attempt to lure away one another's customers.

“We also understand this is part of business ebb and flow, in that companies come and go on a constant basis,” Andree said. “Verizon Wireless will be vacating an attractive building in a very desirable location, and we are confident another company will locate there.”

He pointed to PPG Industries Inc.'s decision in the fall to add 500 jobs in Cranberry Woods, softening the blow of Westinghouse Electric Co.'s eliminating 200 in the business park months earlier.

About 8,000 people work in Cranberry Woods, where Verizon Wireless was one of the original tenants about a dozen years ago, Andree said.

Andree, reached by the Tribune-Review shortly after learning of the job cuts from news reports, said it was too soon to tell how the moves would affect township finances, noting many of Verizon's employees come from elsewhere and don't pay local earned income or property taxes. The company leases office space.

Verizon rival AT&T slashed about 200 jobs at two Pittsburgh call centers last year.

Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile phone carrier, plans to close three other customer service call centers in California and Connecticut in a cost-cutting move that will affect 5,200 workers total. Verizon said 2,200 employees will transfer to other offices within driving distance, and the remaining 3,000 can apply for other positions locally, relocate with company assistance to similar positions at 26 remaining call centers or accept a buyout package.

About 600 Cranberry-based employees will be able to relocate to any of the 26 centers, and 40 employees will be able to relocate to the Marshall facility. Marshall's telemarketing employees can go to other telemarketing centers in Tampa; Rancho Cordova, Calif.; or Orangeburg, N.Y.

Its business and government support workers could seek similar jobs in Hilliard, Ohio; Hanover, Md.; or Alpharetta, Ga.

Verizon Wireless, which has about 73,000 employees, is offering relocation assistance of $10,000. Employees looking to visit another potential call center location to see if they want to move there can get $500 from the company to offset travel costs.

Merritt said the moves will “fill vacant space and make better use of the company's facilities.”

Verizon Communications, which owns 55 percent of Verizon Wireless, posted a net profit of $7.9 billion in last year's fourth quarter, up from a $1.93 billion loss during the same period a year earlier. Its earnings slightly exceeded analysts' expectations.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or Staff writer Rachel Farkas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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