Oregon's Malheur Bell, whose roots stretch back to 1895 before its initial telephone exchange in Vale, Ore., was connected with the outside world, this December will process its last call as an independent phone company. Its parent Qwest will fold the company into its own operations, a merger which Qwest spokesman Bob Gravely said will be official December 14 and will shut down the Malheur Bell office in Ontario, Ore.
Not surprisingly, Qwest is closing Malheur Bell as part of an ongoing effort to cut operating costs by consolidating its wholly owned subsidiaries. By merging the Malheur Bell operations into its fold, Qwest believes it will be able to eliminate duplicate billing systems; however, Qwest will need to establish a new location where customers will still be able to pay their phone bills in person. "Given the times we are in, we need to do things as efficiently as we can," Gravely said in a statement.
Malheur Bell currently employs 17 people. Some of those employees will be offered new positions in Qwest's Idaho market, while others will need to either find another job at Qwest by December 14. Those workers that can't find a new position by December 14 will be offered a severance package provided by union bargaining agreements.
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