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Saturday, 29 June, 2002, 02:35 GMT 03:35 UK
Gloom at WorldCom centre
WorldCom centre in Virginia
Many workers had not been turning up for work

WorldCom's operation centre in Virginia, just outside Washington, is a somewhat forlorn structure at the best of times - an anonymous collection of low-rise structures in battleship grey and smoked glass by a highway on the outskirts of Ashburn.

It was a particularly gloomy place on Friday.

Many employees had known their company was in some sort of trouble, but this week's news had added to their depression.

Knowing lay-offs were inevitable, many had not been turning up for work in the past couple of days.

Friday would be the day of redundancies, but few knew exactly what to expect or precisely when.

No comment

We met a group of about a dozen employees having a last breakfast at Omia's roadside restaurant on the way to the WorldCom centre, but nobody wanted to speak to us.

WorldCom employee leaves Iowa office after being laid off
The company is not saying how many will be laid off

They had been asked by the company not to, they said.

The same was true at the WorldCom centre itself.

The workers sped past our cameras and microphones in their cars into the company carpark.

The company spokeswoman, Natasha, did emerge, but only to tell us that she had no comment and to ask us to respect the employees' privacy.

No word on when any announcement might come.

Bittersweet

But just before midday, cars began emerging again. The first few were as reticent as before, waving us away with a wry smile.

Then they began to stop and the picture emerged of individuals being called into managers' offices to be told the news. And even for those who had been laid off there was a mixture of emotions.

A feeling of betrayal and a sense of bitterness towards the company's top executives and their greed, as several described it. But some were philosophical as well - at least they were getting severance pay.

With the company still under a cloud, those who are left may not be so lucky if the company goes under.

It was certainly bittersweet for one employee, Allan Liska, who had been with the company for six years.

His wife is expecting their first baby on 4 July. "That," he said, "is what I'm concentrating on right now."

There were 4,500 employees at this site and there had been fears of 1500 redundancies.

At the moment it looks like 500 - but when or whether there will be more, the company is not saying.

WorldCom

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