- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

Motient Corp. emerged from bankruptcy last month, but the company's problems haven't gone away.
The Reston-based company asked employees this week to volunteer to work fewer days so it can cut operating expenses and prevent laying off more workers.
"We're trying to save money," Motient Chief Financial Officer W. Bartlett Snell said.
The cash-strapped company hopes to cut operating costs by up to $2 million through the voluntary program.
Motient operates a telecommunications network that supports corporate e-mail and gives employees remote access to company databases. Motient also operates one of two networks supporting Research In Motion Inc.'s BlackBerry device.
Motient filed for bankruptcy in January, listing $495 million in debts and $238 million in assets. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia approved the company's plan to eliminate about $500 million in debt, and it emerged from bankruptcy May 1.
Motient laid off 72 employees last year and 12 employees this year. The company currently has about 330 workers, with 100 in Reston and 230 working in Lincolnshire, Ill.
It hopes to avoid another round of layoffs by getting up to 40 percent of employees to agree to cut their hours. In meetings with employees on Tuesday and Wednesday, officials proposed two plans.
Employees can work four days a week or nine days every two weeks, Mr. Snell said.
If too few people sign up for the voluntary program, Motient may have to lay off workers.
"If it's higher, great. If it's lower, we may have to look at other things," Mr. Snell said. "We want to stay away from the 'L' word."
Many tech companies are struggling to survive, and work-reduction plans help cut costs without forcing drastic measures such as layoffs, said Harris Miller, president of the Arlington-based Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) industry group.
"There is no doubt the tech economy continues to be in very tight straits. A lot of technology companies, particularly small ones, are still struggling," Mr. Harris said.
An ITAA report last month concluded that the number of U.S. technology workers fell nearly 530,000 in the past year, a drop of about 5 percent.
Employees also are likely to embrace the work-reduction plans if they can afford to, because losing their jobs is worse, said Hector Velez, executive vice president of technology and sales at HireStrategy.com, a technology-industry executive-recruiting firm in Reston.
"Employees are saying they're OK with plans like this, because they don't like the alternative," Mr. Velez said.

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