Suffolk to be 'hit badly' by BT job cuts

BT workers at Adastral Park will be “hit badly” by job cuts in a major blow to the Suffolk economy, a union boss has warned.

Simon Tomlinson

BT workers at Adastral Park will be “hit badly” by job cuts in a major blow to the Suffolk economy, a union boss has warned.

Posts at the research and development site in Martlesham are in jeopardy after the company announced 15,000 redundancies yesterday.

The telecoms giant aims to shave 10% of its workforce through natural wastage, but also by targeting agency staff and contractors - many of whom work at Adastral Park.

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Suffolk has around 5,000 BT employees, with 3,500 stationed in Martlesham.

Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, said: “We think Martlesham will be hit fairly badly. There is a lot of technical work done there by contractors. The announcement was serious for staff at BT.”

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The firm also revealed it had cut 15,000 posts in the last 12 months, 5,000 more than expected.

BT said it had no plans for compulsory lay-offs, but there were fears the vacuum created would have a serious knock-on effect for companies reliant on Adastral Park.

Mr Kerr said: “It is really tough out there at the moment, not just for people working directly for the company, but people who supply BT and carry out maintenance work. It is going to be really difficult for people.”

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer said the impact on his constituency, the county, the region, and Britain could be devastating.

"It is one of the most important research plants in Britain and we must hold on to the knowledge base if Britain's intellectual capacity is to be maintained to allow us to compete in the world.

"I intend to talk to BT's chairman as soon as possible because the effect on my constituency of all these job losses will be appalling.

"Martlesham village is so dependent on the spending power of BT employees and will be badly hit by any reduction in the workforce."

Mr Gummer said BT played an important role in the community. "For example, the company is an important player in the work which is going on to improve education in Felixstowe. To lose BT's imput would be a serious blow for the town."

Ben Gummer, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Ipswich, said the news was of “great concern”.

He added: “The threat of redundancy alone can be incredibly distressing. Local people will quite understandably be worried about the ability of our local economy to absorb significant job losses, even if they are 'voluntary'”.

BT revealed yesterday that its workforce fell from 162,000 to 147,000 in the year to March.

The firm had predicted a reduction of 10,000 but said the extra cuts largely came from agency staff. A similar total reduction is expected next year, said a spokesman.

Connect, which has a strong membership base at Adastral Park, said it would be working closely with the company to secure as many jobs as possible.

General secretary Adrian Askew said: “We don't know the detail of where the jobs will fall, but we are confident that BT is honouring its commitment to do everything it can.

“We recognise the challenges for the company and are exploring a range of flexible resourcing options such as external secondments and voluntary reductions in hours so as to minimise their impact on our members.”

The latest jobs blow emerged as BT announced pre-tax losses of �134million for the year to March 31.

The deficit follows a mammoth �1.9billion hit from BT's global services arm, which provides IT networks to multi-national businesses.

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