Local News

Laid-off Nortel workers lose benefits

Posted January 17, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— Recently laid-off Nortel worker Robert Miller said he learned from a co-worker that his severance package would be cut off at the end of January.

Miller was among the 1,300 workers laid off by Nortel Networks in late 2008. On Friday, a Nortel spokesman confirmed to WRAL News that the company would cease severance and insurance benefits for laid-off employees Jan. 31.

The announcement came two days after Nortel, which employs some 2,000 people in the Triangle area, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Ex-Nortel worker reacts to benefits loss Ex-Nortel worker reacts to benefits loss

Some former employees said they learned about the change from a telephone call.

“At least have enough respect to tell us upfront that this is what’s going on,” Miller said.

Miller, a data networks worker, started at the telecommunications company in 1985. He was let go in 2002 but rehired in 2003. He was laid off again in December as part of corporate cutbacks.

“They had started outsourcing a lot of work to India,” Miller said.

Since Miller took a severance package after his first lay-off, his most recent package was based on his service since 2003. Miller said he took solace in knowing he would get full pay and benefits, as part of the package, through April.

“Cutting off everybody’s severance…after they laid them off with no notice or anything like that kinda makes me angry,” Miller said.

Company spokesman Jay Barta described the cutbacks as “tough but necessary.”

"As Nortel goes through the restructuring process there will be impacts on employees,” Barta said. “We know this is difficult news for employees whose contributions have been, and continue to be, key to Nortel's innovation. This is a tough but necessary step as we restructure to put Nortel on sound financial footing once and for all."

Those few months of severance pay could be the difference between making it or not, Miller said.

“If I can get a half-way decent paying job, we get to keep our house,” he said.

Analysts say the bankruptcy filing gives Nortel time to restructure but believe more layoffs are inevitable.


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  • dws Jan 19, 2009

    this is a failure on the part of NT's Board of Directors and executive management, not Canada.....

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jan 19, 2009

    The United States Government should seize assets of the Canadian based Nortel that are located in the United States. These seized assets should then be liquidated and used to pay the severance packages that Canadian based Nortel promised American workers.

    Canadian based Nortel has no loyalty to the United States and it's citizens.

    The United States should have no loyalty to Canadian based Nortel.

  • CrewMax Jan 19, 2009

    Corporate loyalty, shareholder value. Which one do you think winds
    up riding in the backseat in any contest?

  • clickclackity2 Jan 19, 2009

    That's pretty low. I think this is the first time I heard of severance packages being axed after they were given. I think those people who looked down upon the younger generation for not being loyal and staying with one company for 25 years, will be singing a different tune. There is no such thing as employer to employee loyalty. It's all about survival, regardless of whether you've been there for 25 years or not. Matter of fact, the longer you've been there the better chance of being your being axed because of various reasons.

  • dws Jan 19, 2009

    lol, pleshy

  • pleshy Jan 19, 2009

    When I lose a job (again only twice, Whew) I don't expect to continue to get anything. If I do, awesome, lucky me. But the last thing I expect is for my old employer to keep a promise made to a former employee. They already broke one agreement - the one to keep me employed as long as I met the guidelines requied for employment. Why should I assume they will keep any other promises? NC is at at will state. People assuming they are going to continue to receive benefits from a job they don;t have - even with a contact, severence agreement, whatever, are naieve. If you feel you have been done wrong - go sue Nortel for breach.

  • PowderedToastMan Jan 19, 2009

    Does anyone else have a problem with a Canadian company operating in the US that racks up dept then wants to declair bankrupty...while renegging on their promise to pay severance and benefits to their employees they're laying off!?!?!

  • IdoNOTliveinDurham Jan 19, 2009

    Pleshy if you earned vacation and carried it over would you expect to get paid for that?

  • dws Jan 19, 2009

    pleshy, these folks received a severance package that covers (or was supposed to) a specific period of time with benefits

  • pleshy Jan 19, 2009

    Uhh, the few times I have been "laid off" (which is basically a nice way to say fired - PC is so stupid), I didn't get to keep my benefits. Why is this a shock? YOU DON"T WORK THERE ANYMORE!