Automation, Level 3 deal lead to 1,000 job cuts at CenturyLink

CenturyLink sign on building (free to use)
CenturyLink's automation of its network is one of the factors in its latest round of layoffs. (CenturyLink)

Citing the merger with Level 3 and the implementation of automation across its network as key factors, CenturyLink is giving its workforce a 2% shave.  

While CenturyLink didn't say what areas the job cuts impact, the nation's third-largest fixed-line operator had roughly 50,000 employees near the end of last year, which would equate to about 1,000 jobs.

"As a result of our acquisition of Level 3, our customers, from individual consumers to global enterprises, benefit from our expanded, innovative network solutions and our complementary managed services," wrote CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen, in an email to FierceTelecom. "However, the combination of two large companies also creates redundant positions that must be addressed to remain competitive. In addition, as part of our ongoing efforts to deliver high levels of customer service, we are implementing best practices and increasing automation. As a result of these two factors, we are reducing our workforce by approximately 2%."

CenturyLink touted the extended reach of its network after closing on its $34 billion deal to buy Level 3, but duplicate positions among employees between the two large service providers were a given.

RELATED: CenturyLink says Level 3 acquisition boosts SMB network reach, service set

That automation was also a factor shouldn't be a surprise to anyone as well. Automation is a double-edged sword for service providers and their employees. When paired with orchestration, automation reduces the complexity of networks.

By using automation, engineers and other employees no longer have to personally monitor things like network performance or turning up a port. In theory, automation frees up those employees to perform other functions or be re-skilled into new roles, but there has long been concern that automation would lead to a reduction of telecom jobs.

"CenturyLink has made its priorities clear. Instead of looking out for their customers and employees, they are chasing short-term gains in order to boost stock prices and put more money in the pockets of their large shareholders and top executives," said Brenda Roberts, vice president of Communications Workers of America District 7, which represents more than 11,000 workers at CenturyLink, in a prepared statement.

If the proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile gains regulatory approval, there could be another round of jobs cuts in the telecom industry.

Prior to handing out employee bonuses that it said were related to last year's corporate tax cut, AT&T laid off some of its employees in December.