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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 6, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Big layoffs at T-Mobile headquarters, ahead of merger

A significant round of layoffs is happening at the Bellevue headquarters of T-Mobile USA just ahead of its merger with MetroPCS, according to people inside the company.

Employees are expecting the cuts, which may affect more than 100 people in marketing and other groups, to happen Thursday, when conference rooms at the company are reserved for “integration” meetings.

T-Mobile declined to comment.

T-Mobile has been steadily reducing the size of its workforce in recent years through restructuring and consolidation of its call centers, but it largely has spared the Bellevue headquarters, where the highest-paid jobs are located. Last year more than 4,200 jobs were cut, including 3,300 at call centers and a later round of 900 across the company, but the company expected to add at least that many as it built up its business sales group. Last year it employed about 36,000 people nationally and 4,800 locally.

Word of new layoffs comes as the company is facing scrutiny over how many jobs will be lost through its pending merger with MetroPCS. Last week, a coalition in Congress asked the Federal Communications Commission to place conditions on the merger requiring the company to preserve jobs. That was followed with a similar request to the FCC made Tuesday by the Communications Workers of America, which warned of “large numbers of job losses” that could result from the merger.

Simultaneously, T-Mobile is trying to rebuild its standalone business after declines during the uncertainty of the period AT&T’s attempted merger played out in 2011. That merger proposal was withdrawn after the federal officials moved to block it. Last month, T-Mobile reported that it’s seeing growth but fourth quarter sales were down 5 percent over the same period the previous year.

Layoffs after a tough quarter during a period of transformation aren’t unusual. But given the pressure to preserve jobs during the MetroPCS merger, some may see this week’s layoffs as an attempt to reduce headcount before potential mandates from Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice declined to take action against the merger, which is significant since DOJ concerns scuttled $39 billion AT&T merger.  MetroPCS announced on Tuesday that the waiting period for antitrust review had ended, and a special meeting of its stockholders to vote on the merger will be convened on April 12.

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