BT is ditching workers faster than your internet connection with 55,000 for chop by 2030
FTTP build to be done by then, network will be more 'efficient,' AI to take over in customer services
BT, Britain's former state-owned telco, is to erase up to 55,000 jobs, or 42 percent of staff, by 2030 to boost profits in what it told The Reg is a vision of how the workforce will look at the end of this decade.
The intention is to slash the total labor base, currently some 130,000-strong, to between 75,000 and 90,000, as outlined today when the networks biz released financial results for the full-year ended March 31.
BT remains on track to install fiber-to-the-premises in 25 million properties by the end of next year, and is expecting to have completed the most labor-intensive components in the coming years.
"By continuing to build and connect like fury, digitise the way we work and simplify our structure, by the end of the 2020s BT Group will rely on a much smaller workforce and a significantly reduced cost base," CEO Philip Jansen said today.
For a company like BT there is a huge opportunity to use AI to be more efficient
BT told us that at the lower end of the job cuts estimate, 40,000 positions will be made redundant or some 30 percent of the workforce. This includes 15,000 engineers presently building the fiber network across the UK, and 10,000 that maintain both copper and fiber infrastructure.
"When we stop building the network we won't need that workforce," said Jansen on a call with investors this morning. He added: "New networks are much more efficient. There will be fewer contractors, natural attrition and reskilling."
A spokesperson told us the company was unable to be more definitive about numbers of redundancies at this point. "This is a long-term structural transformation in our workforce."
Other reductions will include 5,000 positions from various functions across the business, and another 10,000 roles would be cut, most likely in customer services, due to "digitization and automation of processes," the spokesperson added.
"For a company like BT there is a huge opportunity to use AI to be more efficient," said Jansen. "There is a sort of 10,000 reduction from that sort of automated digitization, we will be a huge beneficiary of AI. I believe generative AI is a huge leap forward. Yes, we have to be careful, but it is a massive change."
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IBM recently said it will slow hiring in back-office functions in the next five years because it thinks those roles can be filled by AI.
BT started a transformation program in 2018 when previous boss Gavin Patterson said the company would chop 13,000 jobs and 90 percent of the real estate over a three-year period. This was intended to save £1.5 billion in operating expenses.
Tens of thousands of BT staff last year downed tools for a number of days in the first nationwide industrial strike action since 1987. It ran from early summer to December.
The latest BT announcement was "no surprise," said a spokesperson for the Communications Workers Union.
"The introduction of new technologies across the company along with the completion of the fibre infrastructure build replacing the copper network was always going to result in less labour costs for the company in the coming years.
"However, we have made it categorically clear to BT that we want to retain as many direct labour jobs as possible and that any reduction should come from subcontractors in the first instance and natural attrition."
John Ferret, national secretary at Prospect Union, said he was "deeply concerned" by the size of the redundancies. "Announcing such a huge reduction in this way will be very unsettling for workers who did so much to keep the country connected during the pandemic."
Investors don't seem to like the news either – BT's share price was down more than 8.5 percent this morning.
As for the financial results for the 12 months to March 31, BT reported a 1 percent dip in revenue to £20.68 billion ($25.71 billion) and a 50 percent rise in profit after tax to £1.905 billion ($2.368 billion). ®