It's not just Toyota: Four local companies cutting 900 jobs

Bell, Convergys, Ashland cut about 100 here

CINCINNATI -- Four local companies and one university revealed Thursday they plan to cut more than 130 jobs, just days after Toyota announced it is pulling 1,600 jobs out of Northern Kentucky.

Cincinnati Bell Inc. will lay off up to 60 employees in the next few months as it shifts information-technology duties to a third-party provider.

“Cincinnati Bell is transforming its IT department to ensure staffing and resources are being deployed in the most effective manner,” said spokeswoman Angela Ginty. “We are working to retain as many employees as possible through retraining and reassignment to other departments.”

Ginty declined to identify the outsourcing partner, except that it’s “an industry-leading telecommunications IT services provider.”

Ginty said the cuts are not related to last month’s announcement that Cincinnati Bell is selling its wireless division to Verizon. Affected workers will be eligible for severance packages and job-placement services.

“This was a difficult decision, but it will ultimately enable the company to focus resources on our fiber expansion strategy,” Ginty said.

Cincinnati Bell is expanding its local network of fiber-optic cables so it can compete against cable companies with its Fioptics service and deliver high-speed Internet access to commercial and residential customers.

Cincinnati Bell isn’t the only local company to reveal job-reduction plans this week.

Covington, Ky. –based Ashland Inc. briefed analysts Thursday on a restructuring program that will eliminate 800 jobs globally, including “a handful” in Covington, said spokesman Gary Rhodes.

That restructuring program is expected to produce $200 million cost savings and achieve “a much more streamlined business with increased regional focus” and improved “accountability and speed of decision making,” CEO James O’Brien said in a conference call to discuss second-quarter earnings.

Convergys Corp. will eliminate up to 40 of its 750 positions at its Erlanger call center by June 30 after losing business with a customer it declined to name.

Convergys spokesman Joe Thornton said affected employees could be eligible for other jobs in the company so the number of layoffs is not certain.

The Convergys cuts are the second jobs hit of the week for Erlanger.

On Monday, Toyota Motor Corp. announced plans to relocate 1,600 jobs out of its North American headquarters. More than 1,000 of those jobs will move to a new company headquarters near Dallas, while 300 engineering jobs will move from Erlanger to Georgetown, Ky. About 250 will relocate to Toyota research facilities in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Enquirer Media, which operates The Enquirer newspaper, cut 14 jobs Thursday, said Mark Woodruff, vice president of market development.

Woodruff declined further comment. Sources said at least five people, including two editors, a reporter, a photographer and an online producer had been let go. If was unclear if non-news departments were affected by the cuts. The Enquirer, owned by Gannett, which based is in McLean, Va., has suffered several rounds of layoffs in recent years.

Northern Kentucky University is planning to eliminate 49 positions, or about 1 percent of its 2,000-person work force, in its next fiscal-year budget starting July 1. About 20 of those positions are currently vacant, said NKU spokesman Chris Cole. NKU's board will vote on the cuts next Wednesday as part of a plan to close a $9.4 million budget gap.

Cincinnati’s unemployment rate dipped to 5.8 percent in March, well below the U.S. rate of 6.8 percent. Total employment of 1,032,000 jobs is still about 20,000 below Cincinnati’s pre-recession peak but the labor market has steadily improved this year.

“We’re having a bad week. But the reality is the general trend is up,” said LaVaughn Henry, vice president and senior regional officer in the Cincinnati branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. “What you’re seeing is the evolution of increased productivity across multiple sectors. As businesses become more efficient by enhancing productivity, they will come to the point where they’ll need fewer workers. But if those workers are more productive, companies have bigger profits. They can invest in new business lines, grow their business and ultimately grow their employment.”


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