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Victims of success

A woman I know recently married her high school sweetheart, after meeting him again at a 25-year reunion. She was then faced with what she now calls the greatest challenge of her lifetime--consolidating the households of two adults.

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Figuring out what would stay and what would go, when you have two of almost everything, nearly derailed the new marriage, she admitted to me. Fortunately, they were able to get some perspective and inject some humor into the situation. And they decided to splurge and buy a brand new media center and high-definition TV for the family room.

AT&T and Verizon have both been through a process not all that dissimilar, and AT&T is now going through that process again as it absorbs BellSouth. Of course, both companies have far more experience at this sort of thing than my friend, since only soap opera characters get married as often as telecom companies merge.

As it turns out, that experience is paying off--both AT&T and Verizon have reported achieving greater merger synergies than originally promised, by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Of course, when they talk about merger synergies, they are talking about cuts, and most of the cuts involve jobs and human beings no longer needed to provide service. In AT&T's case, 12,000 such cuts were made, and in Verizon, it was 9200. There were also network facilities that were retired or decommissioned, but the greatest savings are made by eliminating people.

It's important to keep this human face on a major industry trend because it is the reality of mega-mergers, as many people at BellSouth are now discovering. But as one now-retired BellSouth employee told me a while back in an e-mail, the picture isn't all bleak. Field workers--installation techs and others whose jobs can't be easily eliminated without affecting service--are actually hoping to see an increase in pay as they join the AT&T fold. It's the middle management folks that are more nervous, he said.

As the telecom industry expands into video, I would like to think there are new jobs out there for folks who want them, but the solution isn't always so simple. My friend's dog now lives with her adult son, after he couldn't adjust to the presence of two cats in the new household.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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