Sprint lays off 10 Hood River workers as part of national cuts

Ten Sprint employees in Hood River will be out of a job by Christmas because of corporate restructuring.

One of those workers is Tom Yates, who has been the public relations manager for almost 26 years. According to Yates, Sprint is making a current reduction of about 2,000 people from its total workforce, another move in the downsizing of employees that began in the mid-90s.

“I’m not unique in this, there are a lot of people facing the same challenge. It definitely is not ‘doom and gloom’ but it is change and it causes you to rethink your goals,” he said.

Yates, 55, said he is more fortunate than his younger colleagues because he has the option for early retirement if necessary.

Since his family is settled in Hood River he plans to first seek another position in the local market. However, he remains hopeful that Sprint will put him back to work in the near future.

“This is just part of that evolution of change and if the opportunity presents itself (with Sprint) I would come back but, unfortunately, it it might not be in Hood River,” he said.

Yates’ last day on the job will be Dec. 15, but he is determined to remain upbeat about the possibilities of the future. He said Sprint has helped relieve the stress of being unemployed during the holiday season by giving him and his peers a “generous” severance package.

According to a Sprint news release, the layoff of 10 out of the 214 employees in Hood River is part of the company’s immediate goal to reduce total operating expenses.

Sprint plans to cut its operating budget by 5 to 7 percent over the next three years, a savings of more than $1 billion. Yates said the poor economy and increased competition in the telecommunications market has played a role in that decision. He said it is also taking place because as services are being consolidated there is a duplication of some jobs. According to Yates, Sprint’s wireless, long-distance and local services are now being “bundled” in one package for greater efficiency. He said Sprint is cross-training its workers so that customers can eventually access all of their options with one telephone call instead of being routed to separate offices.

“We’ve just been slowly making the migration toward being ‘One Sprint’ and this is a repositioning of personnel,” said Yates.

Since 1986, Sprint has been housed in the Waucoma Center, once employing more than 300 people to field customer care and repair calls from several states. About 1995 the corporation began to streamline its operations and positions were eliminated either through attrition or layoffs.

Sprint serves more than 26 million customers in over 100 countries. The corporation employs about 68,000 workers worldwide and generates nearly $27 billion in annual revenues. Sprint has increased its distribution of local communications services from 18 to 39 states and the District of Columbia. It operates the largest 100 percent digital nationwide PCS wireless network in the United States.

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