GTE California, as part of a broader plan to cut its work force, will soon offer early retirement to 644 of its 4,650 white-collar employees. An undetermined number of layoffs are expected to follow early next year.
Tom Leweck, a GTE California spokesman, said Tuesday that within the next several weeks, the company will send a benefits statement to employees explaining the early retirement program. Leweck said qualified employees are 50 or older and have worked for the telecommunications firm for at least 12 years. They range in position from secretary to executive and work in offices around the state.
"There is no way to know how many people will accept this early retirement package, but we think it will be in the 50% range," Leweck said.
The early retirement offer is the first major step that GTE California has taken in connection with a reorganization announced in March by the company's parent, GTE Corp., the Stamford, Conn.-based telecommunications giant.
GTE Corp. has begun consolidating its seven local phone companies, including Thousand Oaks-based GTE California, into four regional offices and a central headquarters.
GTE California was selected in June to become the headquarters for GTE West, but layoffs are expected at the Thousand Oaks location anyway as jobs are eliminated and others transferred to the yet-to-be-named headquarters for telephone operations.
"By offering this kind of retirement incentive, it will allow some of our senior management employees additional options which will minimize any adverse impact for those employees who can not relocate" to a central headquarters, Leweck said.
He said the company wasn't worried that too many people will accept the offer, which will take effect Jan. 1.
"The purpose of this reorganization is to streamline the company, and that demands fewer employees. There seems little likelihood we'll end up with too few employees," Leweck said. "The likelihood is that we will still have a surplus number of employees after this early retirement incentive program, and that will mean some outplacements."
Leweck said the company still doesn't know how many employees will be forced to resign because they can't relocate or how many will be layed off.
GTE California has about 21,000 employees and serves 330 communities in the state, with most of its customers in communities stretching from San Diego to Santa Barbara.