DT Works Councils Support T-Mobile Workers

31 May 2012: On Tuesday May 29, Deutsche Telekom works councilors and ver.di wrote to workers in two T-Mobile call centers slated for closure June 22 (Allentown, PA, and Frisco, TX), promising they would do “everything possible, here in Germany, to call attention to your situation and to highlight the failed policies by management.” The letter was signed by Jupp (aka Josef) Bednarski, Chairman of the Central Works Council of Deutsche Telekom Kundenservice GmbH (DT Customer Service LLC), and Ado Wilhelm, Divisional Director, Mobile Communication, ver.di. Both visited the Frisco call center in February.

Bednarski and Wilhelm wrote that they had already sent a letter to T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm asking that T-Mobile “refrain from this outsourcing policy and to learn from the German experience with offshoring.”

“Nobody can provide the quality customer service that you have provided for years,” the two leaders wrote. The decision to close these call centers “is an inhuman policy, against which we together have to resist.” The Deutsche Telekom works councils and ver.di stand in solidarity with T-Mobile workers.

The same day, Bednarski and Wilhelm wrote to workers at the Nashville, TN, and Wichita, TX, call centers. These centers will not be closed but the specter of shutdown now haunts all T-Mobile workers. The workers in the seven call centers not only will lose their jobs but they had no opportunity to even bargain over the effects of the shutdown: “The fact that you could not be represented by a labor union and bargain collectively with management (as we do in Germany) is a serious matter that we raise on a regular basis with German management. It is your right to choose representation by CWA without having fear of reprisal.” Click here for a copy of the letter

The Deutsche Telekom works councils and ver.di stand in solidarity with T-Mobile USA workers.

The reaction to both letters was overwhelming. “Awesome!” wrote one supporter in Nashville. The same response in Wichita - “Awesome!” In Frisco, chants of “the owners need to hear that” and “we are necessary!” were heard across the cubicles. “People loved the support from Germany,” wrote a call center worker in Allentown.

On Friday May 18, Deutsche Telekom works councilors had written a sharp rebuke to T-Mobile USA management. Writing on behalf of all DTKS works councils representing 14,000 workers, Bednarski wrote to T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm to express his concern about the decision to close 7 U.S. call centers affecting 3,300 employees.

“Maintaining customers requires excellent customer service,” he wrote. However, the management actions in the U.S. suggest a disinterest in excellent customer service. Bednarski wrote that along with several colleagues, he visited with T-Mobile USA colleagues in February:
We learned that the quality problem with offshore call centers is similar to the experiences we have had in Germany. The permanent staff spends its time remedying the mistakes made in external call centers. The customers are unhappy, and the total cost of offshoring and then fixing mistakes is more expensive than simply paying permanent staff.

“Why not learn from the experiences we have had in Germany?” he asked. He then urged Humm to re-consider the decision to close the call centers and to give the staff the opportunity to deliver the high quality service necessary to attract and retain customers. “Keep the jobs in your call centers!” he demanded. Click here for a copy of the letter.

CWA has petitioned the U.S. Department of Labor for Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits for the 3,300 workers in the 7 call centers slated for closure. If the petition is approved, T-Mobile workers would be eligible for extended unemployment benefits, tuition assistance, and subsidies for family health care.

The solidarity between ver.di and CWA continues to grow. In June, Lothar Schröder, the head of telecommunications for ver.di and a member of the union’s Executive Board, will spend a month in the U.S., helping T-Mobile workers organize local unions.

Click here for a video of the ver.di visit with T-Mobile workers in February 2012.