NTL retains Scottish customer management... for now


Customer management call centre operatives in Scotland look set to have won a stay of execution after NTL announced a job cutting bloodbath this week following its £3.4 billion merger with Telewest.

More than 900 call-centre staff work at Bellshill, Lanarkshire and 275 customer support staff are spread between the west of Scotland and Livingston. A further 348 staff who formerly worked for Telewest are employed in Edinburgh and 125 in Glenrothes, Fife. The firm plans to cut its 17,000-strong workforce by more than a third - axeing 3,000 jobs and outsourcing 3,000 more - but jobs in Scotland are escaping the immediate effects.

NTL's move will instead affect workers at Swansea, Liverpool and Teesside.But there's no long term guarantee that the workers North of the Border will remain in place long term. A spokeswoman for NTL said: "There aren't immediate changes to the workforce in Scotland, but that does not mean there won't be. A decision on that will be made over the next year and a half."

NTL said it hoped a large number of cuts would be achieved through natural wastage, voluntary severance and a reduction in part-time staff. From July. IBM will take on 791 NTL staff at the company's telephone and digital TV fault and customer management centre in Swansea, as well as 690 at Telewest's broadband support and fault management in Liverpool.

A further 54 jobs at NTL's fault management centre in Teesside will be moved to Liverpool or Swansea.

Additionally, 196 jobs employees at NTL's fault management centre in Manchester will be retrained and transferred to the company's customer management centre, based at the same location.

Neil Berkett, chief operating officer at NTL:Telewest, said: "Since we announced the merger with Telewest, we have consistently said that headcount reductions are likely. We cannot avoid taking difficult decisions if it means a better experience for our customers in the long term."

But it is understood there might be up to 1,000 compulsory redundancies. "This is a monumental slap in the face for staff who have remained with the company through several turbulent years," said Sharon Elliott, of the trade union BECTU. "As NTL moves forward with its proposals, we are calling on the company to enter into proper and timely consultation with the staff affected and with BECTU."

Steve Burch, NTL's chief executive, said that, although the details of the shake-up were still being finalised, he did not expect jobs to be sent abroad to countries such as India.

NTL has radically reshaped itself since emerging from bankruptcy protection in 2003. It organised a rights issue to raise £824.3 million and trimmed its workforce, with 1500 call centre staff losing their jobs in cuts announced two years ago. NTL merged with Telewest in March to create the largest provider of residential broadband services in the UK.

It's been a bad year for cuts in the telco sector. Mobile phone giant Orange last week announced plans to axe up to 2000 jobs under a review of its operational costs. Rival telecoms firm Cable & Wireless warned in February that it may reduce its 5500-strong UK workforce to between 2500 and 3500 over the next four to five years.

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