updated 12/15/2005 5:30:19 PM ET 2005-12-15T22:30:19

BellSouth Corp., the dominant local phone provider in nine Southeastern states, said Thursday it is cutting 1,500 management jobs, or 2.4 percent of its total work force, because of competition from cable providers.

The Atlanta-based company said the reductions will take place in supervisory and non-supervisory management positions, including staff support functions. Most of the reductions are expected to occur through the acceptance of voluntary severance packages and are to be completed by April 30, 2006.

“Reducing work force is the toughest business decision a company has to make,” Chief Executive Duane Ackerman said in a statement. “We have worked hard to avoid it, but many companies our size and particularly our competitors operate with lower overhead and fewer management layers.”

BellSouth will record an after-tax charge of roughly $95 million, approximately $50 million of which will be recognized in the fourth quarter of 2005.

The anticipated benefit of the work force reductions is expected to be in the range of $175 million annually, the company said in a related filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The cuts amount to 2.4 percent of BellSouth’s 63,349 total employees that it ended the third quarter with and 7 percent of its 21,267 management employees.

Spokesman Jeff Battcher said the company made the decision for competitive reasons.

He added that the company doesn’t believe it will be forced to make changes to its pension similar to what Verizon Communications Inc. recently announced.

“There’s been no announcement and no plans for that,” Battcher said. “Our pension is overfunded and one of the most well-funded in the country.”

Verizon announced earlier this month it would stop contributing to pension plans for managers. It also made changes to retiree health benefits.

Battcher said that six or seven years ago BellSouth made changes to retiree health benefits, including adding a requirement that new employees had to work a certain number of years before becoming eligible for the benefits.

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