Nearly 250 Verizon workers to lose jobs

Verizon told employees Monday at its call center on Harrodsburg Road that it intends to close the facility in March, putting nearly 250 people out of work.

The call center, which provides directory assistance, employs 225 hourly workers and 16 managers, said Verizon spokesman Harry Mitchell. It's become a victim of rapidly expanding technology, he said.

"Call volumes for directory assistance have decreased significantly due to alternatives that people have like free Internet sites through your PC or wireless devices or free 411 directory assistance options available out there," Mitchell said.

It might also be driven by the company's decision to sell a network switch near Fort Wayne, Ind., that transferred operator assistance calls to Lexington, said Joey McCar ty, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 3372, which represents hourly workers there.

"Whenever that deal goes through, they would have to spend the money to get a backbone through another switch," he said.

Mitchell acknowledged Ver izon is selling certain operations in several states but said the decline in call volumes is the predominant reason.

Workers will be offered two types of severance packages under their union contract, McCarty said, though he declined to go into detail about the types of compensation that will be given.

The facility's final day of operation will be March 27, Mitchell said. He added that employees would not be able to transfer to other facilities because there aren't any near Lexington and others are also suffering from low call volumes.

The call center began operations in Lexington about 1993, when the company was still GTE. The building, near Turfland Mall, dates from before that time. As recently as 2001, it employed about 600.

McCarty said the union has spoken with the state Cabinet for Economic Development and asked whether tax incentives could be used "to change Verizon's mind."

"That's going to be a big, big impact on not just our 230 people out there faced with losing their jobs and insurance but also for the state as a whole," he said. "These were $14-, $15-, $16-an-hour jobs that had good benefits with them.

"Those are hard to replace in today's economy."