UK staff in firing line as BT set to axe 13,000 jobs in cost-cutting drive

BT is to axe around 13,000 jobs as part of a revamped cost-cutting drive.

The company said the job losses would mainly affect back office and middle management roles, with two thirds of the cuts set fall on UK staff.

Remaining staff cuts are expected to impact upon BT's operations abroad.

Plans were also revealed to exit the BT headquarters in central London, though another site in the capital is expected to house its head office.

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson outlined the cost-cutting measures (John Stillwell/PA)
BT chief executive Gavin Patterson outlined the cost-cutting measures (John Stillwell/PA)

The move comes as BT looks to cut costs by around £1.5 billion by the final year of its three-year plan.

The telecoms firm added that it would be hiring around 6,000 new employees "to support network deployment and customer service".

BT has around 106,400 employees globally, with 82,800 in the UK.

The FTSE 100 firm saw its shares tank on the news, falling as much as 8.8% at the start of trading.

The announcement comes nearly a year after the company said it was to axe 4,000 jobs as part of a restructuring of its Global Services unit.

BT chief executive Gavin Patterson said: "Decisions like this are not easy."

"We recognise that it is going to affect a lot of people, but ultimately we need to do these things to ensure that we remain a competitive business going forward and that we can benchmark our performance against peer companies," he told reporters.

He added that it was the "right thing for the business" and helps take BT "into its next chapter".

BT explained on Thursday that it was making moves to simplify its operating model by "de-layering" its management structure and ensuring there are "fewer, bigger, more accountable leadership roles".

It was also trying to improve productivity across its core UK operations, including "process simplification and automation to reduce costs".

Philippa Childs, national secretary of the Prospect union, said the scale of the job cuts will come as a "devastating blow" to the managers and professionals it represents at BT.

"Many of the roles that BT is proposing to cut are highly skilled professionals and the loss of that expertise could impact BT's research and innovation capability," she said.

"We are also concerned that cutting such a large number of roles will inevitably impact those who remain in BT and could lead to work being pushed down to employees in lower grades."

BT shares tanked on the news (PA)

Plans to ditch its London headquarters have been made as part of efforts to reduce inefficiencies which BT said were created by by having too many sites across the UK.

Around 80% of its staff are currently based in around 50 locations, with some cities hosting multiple offices.

BT said it would consolidate its offices, and focus on just 30 "modern strategic sites to create a more collaborative, open and customer-focused working culture."

As for BT Centre, group chief financial officer Simon Lowth said: "We'll be looking at all options for the best future for that particular site, so (we're) very early in the process."

Read our full statement on #btjobcuts here: https://t.co/GCABJnfx2j

-- Prospect Union (@ProspectUnion) May 10, 2018

The strategic update came as BT released its full-year results which showed a 1% drop in revenue to £23.7 billion, while reported pre-tax profits rose 11% to £2.6 billion.

It booked a £241 million restructuring charge over the period, when it cut more than 2,800 roles mainly across managerial and back office staff.

BT said the move helped achieve £180 million in savings for the year.

The company also spent around £22 million on professional costs relating to the investigation into its Italian business.

The company has been dealing with the aftermath of an accounting scandal at its Italian division, which resulted in a £530 million write-down and a major fall in its share price last year.

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