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David Sims - TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist[March 28, 2005]

Fleet Shuffles Call Center Jobs

By David Sims, TMCnet CRM Alert Columnist

According to reporting by Sasha Talcott of the Boston Globe, Bank of America Corp. has cut about 1,400 employees in Massachusetts in its merger with FleetBoston Financial Corp., about half of its total job loss in New England and double the number the bank had previously disclosed.

Bank of America chief executive Kenneth D. Lewis and several other top executives told the Globe in September the bank had cut 700 Massachusetts jobs in its merger with Fleet. But by December, those layoffs had increased to about 1,400, Bank of America said in response to a questionnaire from US Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton, and the House Financial Services Committee.

Frank and the committee met in Boston to hear testimony about employment issues raised by the Fleet merger.

In its merger with Fleet, Bank of America has pledged to maintain the same number of employees in New England about 17,900 as Fleet had before the deal. Already, Bank of America has revealed plans to create about 1,100 new jobs, including about 400 executives in its Global Wealth and Investment Management division, which is headquartered in Boston, and 700 jobs in a call center in Rhode Island.

Bank of Americas president of the Northeast, Anne Finucane, said the bank plans to create 1,800 new jobs in New England over the next two years and will fulfill its employment commitment by 2006. She has said the bank has finished the bulk of merger-related layoffs.

Finucane also said the banks new Rhode Island call center is expected to employ some Massachusetts residents, and she estimated that about 600 of the 1,100 new jobs will go to people who live here.

At the same time as Bank of America adds jobs to New England, it has signed outsourcing contracts with third-party companies, such as State Street Corp. and Fidelity Investments, to handle some work, creating several hundred jobs between those companies. Bank of America chief executive Lewis has previously said the bank plans to count outsourced jobs toward its total New England employment because its contracts created them. But some elected officials have criticized that notion, saying that the bank should not count workers at other companies as Bank of America employees.

In the questionnaire submitted to congressional officials, Bank of America did not use the number 1,400 in reference to its Massachusetts layoffs. Instead, it said that it had cut 2,900 jobs throughout New England, with about half of those cuts in Massachusetts. Finucane confirmed yesterday the bank had cut about 1,400 jobs in Massachusetts.

Bank of Americas answers to the questionnaire did not disclose layoffs in Connecticut or Rhode Island. In Rhode Island, George Burke, special projects manager for the states Department of Labor and Training, said the bank has alerted him of about 50 new layoffs this month.

So far, he said, he is aware of about 110 Bank of America layoffs in his state, though it gained hundreds of Bank of America jobs over that same period because of the banks new call center.

David Sims is contributing editor and CRM Alert columnist for TMCnet.

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