Altice USA is seeking out construction and tech workers willing to sign up for voluntary layoffs that would begin on May 12, in an effort to cut costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a memo sent to employees, Altice USA Technical Services is asking for field service workers in New York state to volunteer for layoffs.
“As you know, earlier this week we shared that we’re seeing consumer behavior affecting field service expectations as well as local conditions and restrictions in our communities impacting some of our construction efforts such as FTTH [fiber-to-the-home] because of state restrictions, municipality closures impacting permitting, and availability from 3rd parties such as utilities due to resource constraints,” the memo stated. “This is causing us to have to make difficult decisions regarding our workforce which will require us to lay some employees off. As we are making these decisions we thought we would first seek to understand if there is anyone within FS [field services], OSP [outside plant], or on FTTH (Long Term Assignment from FS or OSP) who would like to volunteer for consideration to be laid off from the company. The layoff would be effective as of May 12, 2020."
Altice USA confirmed that its Altice Technical Service unit is offering a voluntary option for some techs, field service and outside plant workers to receive severance or remain in their current roles.
According to some former employees, Altice USA is offering those workers who agree to be laid off a severance package that includes two weeks of pay for every year of service and three months of health care coverage.
Like other cable operators during the pandemic, Altice USA has had to lay off workers as shelter-in-place and social distancing orders have taken hold. Altice hasn’t revealed how many workers it has had to let go, but has said it was a small percentage of its total workforce. According to its 10-K annual report, Altice USA has about 10,700 workers.
About 700 Altice USA workers are represented by two unions -- the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. CWA represents about 300 Altice USA workers in Brooklyn, N.Y., more than 100 workers in Westchester County, N.Y., and 52 workers in Beckley and Logan, W. Va. IBEW represents about 100 Altice USA workers in Oakland, N.J., and about 126 workers in Nassau County in New York. The CWA local in Westchester is currently in talks with the company to avoid laying off 16 workers at that facility and hopes to reach a deal soon.
“We are currently in negotiations to mitigate the layoffs with Altice and hope to have a workable solution in the near future,” CWA said.
According to some people familiar with the company, Altice USA has laid off about 200 workers in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut areas, which works out to be less than 2% of the total workforce. It couldn’t be determined how many, if any, were let go in its Suddenlink territories in the Midwest, Southeast and Western parts of the country.
In a statement, Altice USA said that it is “well positioned” in the current environment, given the increased reliance on its networks and services. In the first quarter, Altice USA lost about 42,000 video customers and gained 50,000 high-speed Internet subscribers, both ahead of analysts’ expectations.
“At the same time, the pandemic and its impact on society have prompted us to evaluate the way we do business, including how we are managing our workforce to best support the immediate needs of our customers while also preparing for how we will operate in the future as consumers’ needs evolve,” Altice USA said in a statement. In the past several weeks Altice US has offered premium pay to customer-facing, contact center and news field employees and created a $10 million community relief program to help assist local communities during the pandemic.
“Regretfully, we also made the difficult decision to lay off a small percentage of employees, and while these decisions are never made lightly, we are providing severance and our full support to impacted employees,” Altice continued in the statement. “We communicated to these employees in mid-April.”