BT has announced that the completion of its fibre roll-out, 5G rollout, adapting to new technologies like AI, plus general cost cutting are key reasons why it will be axing up to 55,000 jobs, primarily in the UK, by the end of the decade.
40 Per Cent Of The Workforce
The massive 40 per cent cut in BT’s workforce will lead to a significantly reduced cost base by the end of the 2020s and, according to boss Philip Jansen, make the new BT Group “a leaner business with a brighter future.”
Drivers Of Job Cuts
The main drivers and numbers of the job cuts are reported to be:
– The completion of the most labour-intensive stage of BT’s next-generation full-fibre and 5G network expansion, which will mean 15,000 job cuts as fewer engineers will be required.
– The digitising of BT’s business and the wider adoption of AI, e.g. for call handling and network diagnostics, which will result in the loss of 10,000 jobs.
– The above-mentioned changes leading to fewer maintenance staff being required, which will result in another 10,000 jobs being cut.
– Cuts in the number of contractors (mainly abroad) which will mean the loss of 30,000 jobs.
– General re-structuring and cost-cutting as part of a rolling programme, meaning a loss of 5,000 jobs.
BT’s job cuts announcement follows Vodafone’s decision to cut 11,000 jobs (around 12 per cent of its 90,000 global workforce) over three years.
Unions Expected It
The Communications and Workers Union (CWU) said that the BT job cuts were no surprise due to the introduction of new technologies and the completion of infrastructure projects.
Share Value Affected
BT’s profits had dropped 12 per cent to £1.7 billion for the year ending in April and the company’s shares also fell more than 7 per cent after the job cuts announcement. Analysts suggest that the job cut announcements may be aimed at convincing investors of the promised cost savings.
With ChatGPT’s massive impact on the business world, much has been made around the part it will play in replacing some of the BT jobs. BT’s Boss Philip Jansen admitted that he sees “huge opportunities” to use AI in the business, e.g. to improve customer service and that an AI tool like ChatGPT “gives us confidence we can go even further”. However, he also says that, although adapting to new technologies, he doesn’t want to make customers “feel like they are dealing with robots”.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
As the unions pointed out, job losses at BT were expected anyway due to the introduction of new technologies across BT and the completion of the fibre infrastructure replacing the copper old network (resulting in in less labour costs). The arrival and enormous impact of ChatGPT (and now Bard), CoPilot, and others, however, have brought with them the kind of automation that has long been thought could lead to job losses, which appears to be the case here for around 10,000 BT workers. This could now become a growing trend as other big companies start to bring the cost and time saving benefits of AI into more parts of their business. As many commentators have noted, however, AI can also create new opportunities and new types of jobs and we are still very much at the beginning of the journey with generative AI, and regulation is likely to be an important step in making sure that the rapid growth of AI usage is safe and beneficial.