TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Williams Communications Group will begin trimming its 4,500-member workforce Monday by as much as 10 percent, the company's chief executive announced Wednesday.
Howard Janzen said the exact number of layoffs would be determined after completion of a department-by-department analysis. But he insisted fewer than 500 employees would be out on the street in what he described as a routine effort to trim business expenses instead of an across-the-board layoff.
The announcement by the Tulsa-based company was the latest among beleagured telecom companies cutting workers as investors continue to shun their stocks amid talk of a bandwidth glut.
``What makes this more newsworthy is all pressure in our industry,'' Janzen said at a late afternoon news conference after the markets closed.
Williams operates a 33,000-mile fiber-optic network that carries video, voice and data for telephone companies, television networks and internet providers.
It employs 3,200 in Tulsa, but Janzen said the company did not know how many jobs would be lost locally.
Last fall, the company had more than 400 unfilled openings in Tulsa and was struggling to attract qualified job applicants. Instead, it added workers at facilities in Houston, Denver and St. Louis.
Executives told employees about the planned cuts at a meeting earlier in the day, Janzen said. Employees were told they would receive severance packages, he said.
Last week, Denver-based Level 3 lowered its financial projections for the second time this year and cut 1,400 jobs, or more than 23 percent of its staff.
Williams' stock closed at $2.67 Wednesday, up 2 cents.
Last summer, the stock peaked at $40.31 when the former parent company, Williams, owned much of its stock.
``It's almost like bodies have tripped to the ground and people have come up and kicked them,'' Janzen said of investor flight.
But while some competitors are gasping, he insisted that Williams is healthy, despite its plunging stock. He also refuted perceptions that the sector suffers from too much capacity.
Investors have failed to distinguish between Williams and its ailing competitors, Janzen said. Level 3 was struggling because of depressed sales of fiber optic cable in the ground but not operational at the time of sale, he said.
But Williams, having already completed its network, is transforming itself into a service company with revenues from long-term contracts with SBC Communications and other companies.
Williams carries all SBC's long-distance calls.
The Tulsa company has as least $3.5 billion in cash to carry it into 2003, when the company expects its revenues to fully support it, Janzen said.