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Qwest offers buyout to workers

As the phone company continues to lose traditional landline customers, it is offering "less than 2 percent" of its workforce voluntary buyouts to cut costs.

The sagging phone business has caused Qwest Communications International to offer hundreds of employees a voluntary buyout as the company continues to tighten its belt.

On Tuesday, Qwest, the third-largest phone company in the U.S., said that it would cut "less than 2 percent" of its 36,843 workforce through a voluntary program. The cuts are targeted at roughly 700 technicians and other Qwest employees who work for the company's traditional landline business, according to the Associated Press.

The cuts come as Qwest and other local phone companies are seeing thousands of customers abandon their old landlines for alternatives, like cell phones and voice over IP services from their cable operators.

Qwest provides local phone service in 14 states, mostly out West. The company has about 12.78 million landlines, a number that dropped 7.3 percent last year from the total in 2006, the AP reported.

The phone company negotiated the buyouts, which are expected to be completed by the end of the month, with the Communication Workers of America union. Qwest had been reducing its workforce through natural attrition, but the voluntary program was put into place to give some employees the option to retire early, which will speed up some departures.

Qwest hasn't said how much the job cuts will cost or how much they will save the company down the road.