AT&T on Wednesday offered its strongest assurance yet that it would not cut jobs at domestic T-Mobile call centers — including at the center in Oakland that employs about 700 — if its merger with T-Mobile USA is approved.

In a statement, AT&T pledged to “bring back 5,000 wireless call center jobs to the United States that today are outsourced to other countries” while it also “committed that the merger will not result in any job losses for U.S.-based wireless call center employees of T-Mobile USA or AT&T, who are on the payroll when the merger closes.”

The promise represented the firmest language yet from AT&T, even though the company’s statement appeared directed specifically at employees and not the call center facilities. Officials have previously only been willing to say they don’t have any plans to close or cut jobs at T-Mobile call centers in Oakland and elsewhere.

The local call center is the flagship business and largest single employer in Oakland’s FirstPark complex.

AT&T’s newfound commitment, however, was tempered on Wednesday by a bombshell. The U.S. Justice Department announced it will seek to block AT&T’s $39 billion bid for T-Mobile through a lawsuit.

The Justice Department said the merger is bad for wireless competition and will raise prices on consumers. Federal officials are asking a federal court to declare the proposed merger in violation of U.S. antitrust law.

AT&T immediately vowed to fight the lawsuit, saying the merger will provide additional wireless network capacity so AT&T can improve service, including fewer dropped and blocked calls and faster data speed. The company also said the merger will “result in billions of additional investment and tens of thousands of jobs, at a time when our nation needs them most.”

AT&T officials did not respond Wednesday to requests for further comment on their announcement and the Justice Department’s lawsuit.

Previously, AT&T officials have suggested that the merger with T-Mobile USA would result in call center consolidation. Owen Smith, AT&T’s regional vice president for external affairs, said in late July that it was too soon to tell how many of T-Mobile’s 24 call centers would be kept open.

But Smith added, “Looking at a merger of this size — let’s not kid each other — one benefit of a merger like this is consolidation. Does AT&T need all 24 call centers? My guess would be we do not, but my understanding is the call center (in Oakland) is rated very high with its workforce, quality and the numbers that T-Mobile looks at nationally. To me, that’s one of the things I’m sure AT&T would look at.”

Earlier this year, Maine’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, sent a joint letter to AT&T expressing a profound concern about the merger’s effect on the call center in Oakland and its jobs.

Snowe, who is a senior member of the Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over telecommunications, said Wednesday that she continues to closely examine the proposed merger. If approved, it should benefit Mainers and the general public, she said.

“I am focused primarily on two aspects of this deal: protecting American jobs and expanding Americans’ access to broadband and wireless services,” Snowe said.

In addition, Snowe praised the center in Oakland as among T-Mobile’s “most successful and highest performing call centers.”

Snowe also issued her strongest words to date, saying the call center “must not be threatened by this acquisition.”

“I am encouraged by AT&T’s recent announcement reinforcing their intent to create, not eliminate, American jobs through this merger,” Snowe said. “But I will review all relevant facts, including those included in today’s Justice Department filing, during Senate Commerce Committee hearings, which I expect to occur in September.”

Kevin Kelley, a spokesman for Collins, said the senator “is pleased that AT&T officials have told her that the company does not intend to close the Oakland call center following a possible merger with T-Mobile.”

“If the deal is approved, she would encourage AT&T to locate any new jobs at this center, which already has a proven record of excellence,” Kelley said.

Scott Monroe — 861-9239

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