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The Association of U S West Retirees
 

 

 

Last Duluth telephone operators lose jobs

Qwest will close its call center in Duluth after today, putting 52 directory-assistance operators out of work.

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Duluth News Tribune

February 5, 2010

Qwest will close its call center in Duluth after today, putting 52 directory-assistance operators out of work.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Diane O’Donnell, one of the operators losing her job.

Telephone operators have been part of the communications work force in Duluth since 1881, said O’Donnell, who has worked as an operator for 31 years herself. The city lost its long-distance operators — the ones they called “O” operators who actually helped customers complete calls — in 1996, and now it’s losing its directory-assistance operators, she noted.

“It’s kind of a blow,” O’Donnell said.

When the layoffs were announced in December, a Qwest spokeswoman said the closure was due to decreasing call volume as more customers use the Internet and cell phone services for directory assistance. The call center is in the company’s downtown building at First Street and Fourth Avenue West.

The call center accounted for one-third of Qwest’s local work force. The company employs another 95 people in Duluth as technicians and workers in its wholesale division.

The Duluth call center survived previous rounds of closures and even landed additional jobs in 2008, when the company cut its directory assistance operations from eight to four. After the current round of closures, Qwest’s last remaining directory assistance operation will be in Waterloo, Iowa.

O’Donnell and other laid-off operators qualify for re-training as displaced workers.