RALEIGH – AT&T says it will pay a 20 percent bonus effective March 25 and “until further notice” to its union workers as the communications giant seeks to keep “essential services running” during the coronavirus crisis.

The announcement comes three weeks after a top company exec talked about plans to make cost cuts, including what he called “headcount rationalization.”

“Healthcare providers, our FirstNet first responders, businesses and consumers depend on us to stay connected,” AT&T said.

In the announcement, AT&T expressed thanks “to all our employees, but particularly our front-line employees who are working hard serving customers during this challenging time.”

The “thanks” includes more pay.

“To show our appreciation for these employees, effective March 25 and until further notice:

“We’ll pay a 20% bonus above the regular hourly base rate of pay to bargained-for employees for all time worked in the office or at home,” AT&T said.

“That bonus will be included in their regular rate of pay for purposes of calculating overtime rates.”

AT&T, which faced worker strikes during contract negotiations in 2019 and accusations of shipping jobs overseas, made a rapid turnaround from plans announced earlier this month.

AT&T management “has looked at effectively 10 broad initiatives that we believe can generate double digits of billions over a 3-year planning cycle,” Chief Operating Officer John Stankey said at a recent investors conference.

“One of the first of those 10 initiatives will include job cuts, which Stankey called ‘headcount rationalization,'” according to ArsTechnia.

Wireless providers shuttering, reducing hours at retail stores due to virus

AT&T waives wireless overage fees as service providers react to coronavirus