Touchstone Wireless Dumps Bristol

by Lewis Loflin

The real shock to some but not me is the pending shutdown of Touchstone Wireless in Bristol, Tennessee in 2011. They were bought out by another company in December 2010 and just announced in May 2011 just what I was afraid of. The jobs are being shifted to Texas and Indiana.

The company was nice enough to offer the workers a job in Texas if they wanted to pay for their own relocation. This low-wage company, which is better than nothing I suppose, wants someone to take a personal risk to move to Texas with no guarantee that they won't dump their workforce down there. How nice of them.

Yet just a few months ago they announced they were hiring 100 people. I almost took a job there once, but the place seemed to be run like a police state with security guards watching everyone, constant pressure to up production, and constant hire and fire with temp agencies.

All for about $8 an hour. The following post is from another blog http://www.topix.com/forum/city/bristol-tn/TLD5OPUIS3GTP3KJ4 and the writer is complaining his posts keep getting deleted at the demands of Touchstone Wireless. Well it won't get deleted on this website and is all too typical of the employment situation here. To quote,

It seems my post was removed, probably at the behest of TW

From a sample size of about 20 or so people of whom I have engaged in conversation at Bristol's Touchstone Wireless plant, at least a dozen or more harbor feelings of indignation, frustration and fear, brought about or relating to they way they are treated by their employer.

Touchstone Wireless' policies towards their staff are such that even conscientious hard-working employees are always mindful of inadvertently committing infractions, whether that be by returning one or two minutes late from break (for fear of dismissal in some cases) or not complying with the eternal work-in-progress that is the ever growing and changing rules and regulations.

Is it any wonder? I can count 15 people of whom I was acquainted and spoke with terminated in the last six months.

For non-scheduled or unauthorized absenteeism from work of one day (or up to seven with a Doctor's sick note) through illness, employees are given one point, counting towards a maximum tally. Half a point is expunged from their record for each fortnight of perfect attendance.

If the employee's points total reaches five twice in one 12 month period any subsequent lateness or absence will result in immediate dismissal.

Overtime is mandatory and will most often only be announced five or ten minutes before the end of the day's shift. If employees have pressing matters to attend to and leave at their scheduled time, they will incur a point.

Whistling, singing, humming or chatting however brief is forbidden. Employees are moved away from their work buddies to new areas at the supervisor's discretion.

I was ever so slightly encouraged but not surprised by the lack of endorsement for the points system by one of the middle managers responsible for actually implementing this most draconian and unimaginative regulation.

That was back in February 2010. Even a friend that made deliveries to the company called the atmosphere there "stifling" and noted the workers were always on edge. The first firing (during this time I'm sure they find plenty of ways to get rid of people before hand) will be July 31.

Over 600 will lose their jobs refurbishing cell phones. They have 357 full-time employees and 256 temporary workers. The Kingsport Times-News claims they are offering relocation assistance to full time employees, but not the abused temp workers. I was told different so who knows. I'm glad I stayed out of that place.

They claim this was caused by AT&T's pending acquisition of T-Mobile changed everything. T-Mobile is one of Touchstone's big contracts and they changed the contract. So the corporate games just go on. To quote the Kingsport Times-News May 17, 2011,

Brightpoint (the new company) expects to add more than 200 jobs at its Fort Worth, Texas, plant and more than 100 jobs at its Plainfield operation. In addition, the company plans to expand the Fort Worth facility to accommodate the growth there. Brightpoint employs roughly 4,000 people as well as a significant number of temporary staff. The company generated revenue of $3.6 billion in 2010.

Note "temporary staff" a recipe for abuse and low pay with corporations. Here (from www.simplyhired.com) is a typical job ad with Kelly Services. Talk about shit pay scales:

2nd Shift Electronic Assembly Kelly Services- Touchstone Wireless - Bristol, VA TOUCHSTONE WIRELESS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH KELLY SERVICES, INC HAS IMMEDIATE OPENINGS! 2nd Shift Electronic Assembly $7.25 per hour. Computer Experience required...

That is one reason I won't take any engineering or electronics jobs in this area. I was suckered into applying until I found out what the pay was and walked out. This is what they pay for technical and computer skills in this community.

As a further sad note four local colleges, ETSU, King College, Virginia Intermont College, and Emory & Henry just graduated over 2100 students. Add in local community colleges and a few other four year institutions at least 4000-5000 graduates are produced here every year. Kelly is typical of the future they will have here. I say invest in U-Haul.



 


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