DENVER — Up to 700 technicians and other Qwest Communications employees who work on traditional land telephone lines have been offered voluntary buyouts, the company said Tuesday.

Qwest Communications International Inc. announced the job cuts as it sees thousands of customers abandoning traditional phone lines in favor of other services, including those offered through wireless and cable companies.

The buyouts are being offered to less than 2 percent of Qwest's total work force of 36,843. In Utah, that translates into approximately 56 jobs out of 2,814 employees statewide, according to company spokesman Bob Toevs.

"These are local network employees who support the traditional phone business — employees who deal with the direct operations, mostly technical support and maintenance employees," he said.

Based in Denver, Qwest is the primary telephone service provider in 14 mostly Western states and operates a fiber optic network. It has 12.78 million land lines, a number that dropped 7.3 percent last year from the total in 2006.

"That's an industrywide trend," Toevs said. "Everybody in the business has been facing that, in light of competition."

The offer is expected to be completed March 27.

Bob Tregemba, the company's executive vice president of network operations, said the company over the years has tried to use its natural attrition rate to balance the work load.

The buyouts, to be based on how long an employee has worked for the company, were negotiated with the Communication Workers of America union to provide an opportunity for those considering either retirement or moving on.

"We are always saddened by the loss of even one job, but the continued loss of access lines is a reality of the entire industry," union official Reed Roberts said in a joint statement issued by Qwest.

The company did not say how much the job cuts will cost or how much the company expects to save.

Qwest stock rose 21 cents, or 4.7 percent, to close at $4.71 a share Tuesday.


Contributing: Jasen Lee, Deseret Morning News.