AT&T Co has announced that it is replacing many long distance call functions handled by operators with speech-recognition technology developed by AT&T Bell Laboratories. The decision follows successful tests in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and it will result in the loss of between 200 and 400 management jobs, between 3,000 and 6,000 non-management positions and the closure of 31 offices in 21 states. However, the company hopes to offer new positions to all those affected, and it has identified eight types of suitable job openings likely to occur between this year and 1994. Those not placed will be offered re-training opportunities, job counselling, outplacement services and severance pay of up to 104 weeks depending on seniority. Among the functions to be automated are collect-calling and billing of calls to third parties. The technology relies on the recognition of only certain key words, and will be deployed in Jacksonville, Florida, and also in Seattle, Washington by June, with nationwide implementation by early 1994.
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