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TINTON FALLS, N.J. – The downturn in the telecommunications industry is having a significant impact in New Jersey, home to major firms such as AT&T, Lucent Technologies and Telcordia (formerly Bell Communications Research), with thousands of employees facing layoffs and forced into early retirement. At United Teletech FCU, whose field of membership largely consists of employees from the companies mentioned and their spin-offs, some 2,000 people out of the credit union’s total membership of 29,000 have been impacted by the downsizings, and the bleeding hasn’t stopped. Rather than wait for approaching deliquencies and defaults, the credit union has taken a proactive stance in helping members. Letters have been mailed to all members explaining that financial assistance is available. “The letters state that any member affected by a layoff and who has a loan with us can take advantage of five options,” explains Ann Rehm, loan manager. The options include: three months interest only payment on loans; the chance to stretch out car and personal loans in order to lower monthly payments; the reworking of car loans based on equity so that members could consolidate other consumer credit union loans; the general consolidating of credit union loans; and home equity refinancing. Through its Member Financial Services department, seminars on financial assistance are also being held at either the credit union’s main branch and office or at one of its seven branch offices throughout Middlesex and Monmouth counties. “The seminars are to advise ad help people through the transition,” says Rehm. United Teletech has never dealt with such a large number of layoffs at one time. According to Rehm, who has been with the credit union for 15 years, “We understand the situation and are working with it.” One effect of the layoffs at the institution, which has assets of $223 million, is decreasing loan volumes. The full effects of the layoffs and early retirements haven’t been felt yet, either. “It’s early on in the layoffs and people can get along for awhile. I think we will be seeing the full effects in a month or two. We will be there for them,” says Rehm. Of all the telecom companies in the state, Lucent Technologies has reported the largest number of layoffs and early retirement packages. Corporate wide, job cuts are estimated to range from between 45,000 and 50,000 by the end of 2001. This includes 29,000 cuts announced in the early part of the year and announcements this past July of an additional 15,000 to 20,000. Some of United Teletech’s members also are employed at Lucent spin-off companies such as Avaya Inc., Basking Ridge, which is in the midst of reducing 3,000 jobs or 11% of its national workforce of 27,300 (the company employs about 3,800 in the state) and Agere Systems, Inc., Allentown, Pennsylvania, but with facilities in New Jersey, which is cutting some 6,000 jobs worldwide. [email protected]

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