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AI-related lay offs at BT

by Marco van der Hoeven

BT Group, the largest broadband and mobile provider in Britain, has announced plans to cut up to 55,000 jobs by 2030, which could amount to over 40% of its current workforce. This decision comes as the company nears the completion of its national fibre network and embraces emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).

Under the leadership of CEO Philip Jansen, BT has been implementing a transformation plan to expand its fibre network and introduce high-speed 5G mobile services. While the company reported pro forma revenue and core earnings growth for the first time in six years, the cost of this transformation and its impact on free cash flow have taken a toll on the company’s shares, causing a 7% drop in morning trade.

Jansen emphasized that after completing the fibre roll-out and implementing digitalization, AI adoption, and structural simplification, BT will operate with a smaller workforce and significantly reduced costs by the end of the 2020s. The group’s total workforce is expected to decrease from 130,000 to between 75,000 and 90,000 by 2030, with around 30,000 of the current employees being contractors.

Jansen revealed that the job cuts would accelerate as BT finalizes its fibre build and phases out 3G. He mentioned that the reductions would occur over a five-to-seven-year period. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) acknowledged that these job cuts were anticipated due to infrastructure and technological changes. The CWU emphasized the need for BT and the union to engage in talks to ensure a smooth transition, suggesting that the company prioritize retaining direct jobs while reducing the number of contractors.

BT’s CEO also discussed the role of AI in the company’s future. He stated that approximately 10,000 fewer network engineers would be required with the advent of digital networks, while automation and AI technologies would replace another 10,000 positions. Jansen highlighted the significant opportunities presented by AI, particularly generative AI large language models, which he compared to the transformative impact of smartphones. BT plans to leverage AI to enhance customer service and pursue other business opportunities, while still maintaining a human touch through its multichannel approach and physical stores.

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