BT, Britain’s largest telecoms company, has announced that it is slashing 13,000 jobs in an effort to boost profits. This is on top of 4,000 job cuts last year.
It wants to reduce costs by £1.5 billion, although there are also plans to hire an extra 6,000 engineers and call centre workers.
Most of the job losses will be among administrative and managerial staff.
“The scale of these job cuts is higher than had previously been speculated on and will come as a devastating blow,” said the Prospect union which represents the grades most affected.
It added, “Prospect will be pressing BT to minimise job losses and to ensure that any redundancies are achieved on a voluntary basis. BT must take into account the potential impact of increased workloads and stress to staff if these changes take place.”
“Voluntary” redundancies are often far from a choice in reality. A BT worker told Socialist Worker, “BT will reduce the number of offices, based all over the country, from 50 to about 30. So with the shake-up you could be offered redeployment but with a long journey each day.
“If you can’t face that and take ‘voluntary’ redundancy is that really your decision?”
The CWU union said, “The announcement of job losses is disappointing. We will of course hold urgent talks with the company to understand any implications.
“However BT has made it clear to us that they plan major investment in frontline engineering and call centres, which we of course welcome.
“We are therefore confident any job losses will have little impact on CWU represented grades and we welcome BT’s plans to invest and grow in the frontline areas in which our members are mainly employed.”
The BT worker added, “People are angry because they feel they are being made to pay the price for failings in the boardroom. A common response was ‘Let’s start job cuts at the top’.”
Last year BT lost huge amounts because of corruption in its Italian division, BT Italia.
News of potential charges over the scandal saw £8 billion wiped off the company’s value as its share price slumped.
In January 2017 BT reduced the value of its Italian unit by £530 million after it said it had uncovered years of “inappropriate behaviour”.
Bosses said they had found evidence of improper accounting practices, leading to “the overstatement of earnings in our Italian business over a number of years”.
The head of BT Europe, Corrado Sciolla, resigned.
Then last July BT paid out £225 million to Deutsche Telekom and Orange to avoid legal action over the same scandal.
Even now shareholders are taking no losses. While the jobs go the company insists it will keep its dividend payments at the present level for the next two years.
Prospect needs to take a much more robust approach to the job losses and campaign for industrial action. Otherwise the downward trend will go on and on.
And the CWU should offer full solidarity.
BT had 240,000 workers when it was privatised in 1984. It now has fewer than 100,000.
The union’s BT divisional conference will be held on Thursday of next week.
It has to agree a real fightback.