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EXCLUSIVE: MetLife to Cut 500-600 Rhode Island Jobs

Friday, March 08, 2013

 

MetLife Inc.'s move to a central office in North Carolina will cost 500-600 Rhode Islanders their jobs.

The news yesterday that MetLife Inc. would be transferring 240 jobs out of Rhode Island is actually much worse than originally reported.

Over the next two years, MetLife, the largest life insurer in the country, will actually take at least 500-600 of their jobs currently located in the Ocean State and move them into the company’s new central location in North Carolina as the organization takes its entire U.S. Retail Life Insurance Administrative division out of its Warwick location.

“The news reports are completely wrong,” a source inside the company said this morning. “In this building here in Warwick, there are anywhere from 500-600 jobs that are leaving now. The transition is going to take about a year but all told about 2,600 employees (across the country) are being relocated to North Carolina.”

A Consolidated Effort

MetLife is reportedly targeting $600 million of cost cuts in an attempt to counter the effect low interest rates have had on the company’s profits.

The Rhode Island move, according to sources, is for this very reason as well as an attempt by the New York-based company to consolidate in one location.

“Oh absolutely,” a source said. “They gave us the exact reason why. Number one is that the salaries are lower there and the workforce, they’re in a different salary zone than we are, they have a lower pay scale than we do so they can pay them less. The second biggest reason is MetLife has become fractured over the years with many different spaces.”

An internal communication says that the moves affect offices in six states altogether.

“In order to reduce the number of core sites while creating better-designed work facilities for employees , starting this year we will begin to relocate approximately 2,600 non-sales positions in the U.S. to two newly created campuses in North Carolina,” MetLife President William J. Wheeler said in an internal communication sent to employees yesterday. “These campuses will be located in Charlotte and Raleigh for our U.S. Retail and Global Technology & Operations organizations, respectively. We will also expand our presence in Tampa, Florida.”

“Sites that we will exit starting this year include Aliso Viejo , California and Lowell, Massachusetts,” Wheeler continued. “We will also relocate associates from Latham, New York to nearby Troy, New York, and we will begin to exit Somerset, New Jersey. We will be maintaining a presence, but with reduced office space, in Bloomfield, Connecticut; Boston, Massachusetts; Irvine, California; Johnstown, Pennsylvania; and Warwick, Rhode Island.”

The source says that MetLife has currently not announced plans to shutter its Warwick offices completely as its Property and Casualty units will remain in RI. In addition, there is a possibility that a “small group” of life insurance employees will stay but the division as a whole has been “obliterated.”

“Most of it will be done by 2014,” a source says. “The complete plan will be for a 2015 end date.”

'It's Like a Morgue in Here,"

The employees themselves say the announcement came as a surprise.

“What’s shocking most of us is many of the employees here who are getting let go including myself have been here 20+ years,” a source said. “MetLife has had deep roots in Rhode Island since 1968, they’ve been here and there are many life employees here who have been here their entire working life and we are taking a body of knowledge with us, things that can never be transferred to other employees who come in off the street so it came as an incredible shock to us, we’re the home office basically.”

Employees reportedly had no idea the move was coming, dismissing reported over the weekend that the company was looking at buildings in North Carolina to purchase or rent.

“We came in on Monday morning laughing about it, thinking it will never happen and yesterday morning, they announced that it is going to happen,” a current employee said. “In fact, the COO called us from Raleigh and he had just shaken hands with the mayor and he had the mayor with him when he called us to tell us that our jobs were going to be eliminated.”

While MetLife is claiming it is “transferring” the jobs out of Rhode Island, employees are essentially being terminated.

“When our jobs transition and we decide we do want to move to North Carolina, we have to apply for our jobs and get interviewed before we get hired,” a current employee said. “It’s not an automatic thing and we will get a pay cut.”

The company reportedly expects few of its employees to make the move, with at least one executives saying that in a normal transition scenario they would expect “about 10-15 percent of the employees would leave the state.”

“However, because Rhode Island has the ocean and the area that they’re going to in North Carolina is quite land-locked,” the source says company executives believe the actual rate of employees who make the move will be much lower.

While some of the Warwick employees are reportedly considering following their jobs to North Carolina, the news about the change has, as expected, decimated morale.

“There’s a lot of tears because most people know that the job market in Rhode Island right now is horrible and they are probably not going to get a job,” a source said. “It’s like a morgue in here.”

Attempts to reach representatives for MetLife were unsuccessful at press time. 

This is a copy of the memo sent from corporate executives to MetLife employees.

 

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