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Nothing 'unites teams' like a good relocation, eh Vodafone?

Cost-cutting effort to see sites close, staffers shifted

Vodafone is rationalising real estate in the UK to cut costs and – in its words – "unite teams", with the lion's share of its Technology heads to be based at Newbury HQ. Redundancies seem inevitable as staff will be asked to relocate, in some cases, hundreds of miles.

Staff were yesterday informed of the “organisational changes” in a memo from UK CTO Scott Petty, which also includes “relocating some of our Care people” - these are contact centre customer services folk, that will be largely housed in two Manchester pavilions.

“A number of roles will be moving office locations as we bring teams together to work in a more simplified, collaborative and agile way, which will further increase our speed of delivery and digital transformation,” he said in the note, seen by The Register.

According to the FT, 2,700 workers have been asked to move.

“This means we will vacate the following buildings; Waterside, Brook and Thames Houses in Bracknell, Pacific House in Manchester, Colmore Plaza in Birmingham, Melbourne Street in Leeds and two of our Glasgow buildings, saving £21m over the next three years.”

This will consolidate sites to two in Glasgow, two in Manchester, one in Birmingham and a couple in the south of England. Vodafone inherited some of these properties when it acquired Cable & Wireless in 2012.

Petty said 1,800 of Vodafone’s tech pros will be based in Newbury, with the offices set to receive a swanky make-over. This will include 380 staff that monitor fixed network services who worked from the Bracknell building, as well as a number from Glasgow- and Birmingham-based premises.

All future tech hires will also be located in Newbury.

Some tech staff will reside in the remaining regional offices in Brum, Glasgow, Manchester and London if customer contracts require regular interaction with local customers, or need individuals to “physically touch the network or equipment in that location,” an FAQ document seen by us stated.

Workers in the Leeds and some in the Glasgow site will move to the Manchester premises, the company’s largest customer services call centre.

The consumer and digital teams - 450 people - will be based in the Smale House office in London which is also getting more than a lick of new paint, and Vodafone is understood to be recruiting more people with a 640-strong team expected to be in situ by the summer.

Digital for Voda means ad teams that use digital channels to advertise. The company will also look at new commercial areas including machine learning and AI.

From today until 31 January, Vodafone will formally commence one to one discussions between employees and managers. Staff are expected to confirm whether they’d like to relocate by the end of next month.

The options for Vodafoners seem to be to agree to relocate, find another local role in Vodafone or accept redundancy. All this is expected to be pushed through by the end of 2019. For staff in Glasgow that may be asked to move to Bracknell, relocation will be nearly 390 miles (628km).

Vodafone said in its FAQ:

“We will work with you to find an alternative role in Vodafone. If you are unsuccessful and we agree that your commute to your new working location is unworkable in your circumstances, you will be considered for redundancy. If your commute to your new working location is deemed reasonable but you do not wish to relocate then this may impact your eligibility to receive a redundancy package.”

The number of redundancies will obviously be determined over the next weeks. Those that agree to move and then change their mind will need to find another role at the telco or resign, the FAQ stated.

A “disturbance allowance” will be paid each month for 18 months to those who qualify, ie, who move city. Financial support to move to a new home will be considered to a maximum of £8,000. Staff that move from the London offices to Newbury will obviously lose their London weighting allowance.

Redundancy includes two weeks of pay for every full year of service with a minimum of two months salary paid and a maximum of six months, the FAQ stated.

A Vodafone spokesman sent us a statement:

“Under this programme, we are uniting teams spread out over a number of smaller offices into larger centres. We recognise some employees will need to commute further or move, and we are speaking to them individually about their specific circumstances to provide support and help them stay with us.”

He said that Vodafone expects to have the “same number of employees” when the two-year exercise concludes. ®

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