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Windstream cuts 170 jobs to trim costs

Fri, 12/05/2008 - 7:20am
The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Telephone and broadband provider Windstream Corp. said Thursday it will cut 170 jobs from its workforce because of declining revenue from its landline business.

Windstream spokesman David Avery said the cuts include involuntary layoffs, but that the company hopes some employees will volunteer for buyouts. Avery said the cuts will be companywide, and include 11 positions in Arkansas. The layoff amounts to about 2.3 percent of Windstream's 7,400-strong workforce.

The Little Rock-based company was created in 2006 when Alltel Corp. spun off its traditional phone business and merged it with Irving, Texas-based Valor Communications Group Inc. Windstream expects the layoffs to be complete in the first quarter of next year.

Windstream said it will pay about $6 million in severance benefits in the fourth quarter to affected employees.

Avery said a state-by-state breakdown of the cuts isn't available because the company is asking for workers to accept severance packages. Affected workers can apply for open positions within the company, and job placement assistance will be offered to workers who lose their jobs.

The company offers traditional landline phone service, for which it has seen demand soften as fewer new homes are built and more customers go wireless.

"We continue to experience revenue pressure from declining access lines. It's important to control expenses in this economy," Avery said.

In addition to voice service, Windstream offers high-speed Internet service and digital TV, in an arrangement with Dish Network.

The company has customers in 16 states, with 3.1 million access lines and $3.2 billion in annual revenue.

Windstream did not say how much money the move will save. The job cuts are one of several ways the company is trying to save money amid the economic downturn.

Earlier Thursday, Windstream asked a Nebraska federal judge to affirm its authority to reduce retiree benefits, even when the people affected retired from other phone companies that Windstream acquired over the years. Windstream estimates that retiree health care benefits represent a $227 million liability for the company, and two-thirds of that figure is associated with benefits for the Nebraska retirees.

Last month, the phone company reported lower-than-expected line losses in the third quarter, but missed analyst estimates for earnings and revenue.

In afternoon trading, shares fell 39 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $8.38.

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