Telenor’s job cuts ‘shocked’ workers

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After years of major expansion abroad, Norway’s state-controlled telecoms firm Telenor is consolidating and cutting back at home. Nearly 200 employees at Telenor offices around the country face transfers or losing their jobs.

Norwegian telecoms firm Telenor is among the companies that's been hit by computer attacks tied to industrial espionage. PHOTO: newinenglish.no

Some workers at Telenor’s headquarters here at Fornebu, west of Oslo, also face losing their jobs, while others divisions at offices around the country are being shut down. PHOTO: newinenglish.no

A total of 188 Telenor workers in Norway were told on Monday that their services were no longer needed where they’re currently working. They’ve been given a choice of accepting a severance package or, in some cases, moving to another location.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that 23 Telenor employees in the mountain town of Førde will either need to move to Rørvik in Nord-Trøndelag, 800 kilometers away, or take a severance package and quit. That’s because Telenor is shutting down several divisions, in places like Førde and Steinkjer, early next year.

Telenor is also planning to shut down its business customers’ service center  in Stavanger, affecting 84 people who now work there. All are being offered jobs either in Kongsvinger or Rørvik, or the option of quitting with severance pay.

Another 60 people at Telenor’s headquarters at Fornebu, west of Oslo, are also being made redundant following a reorganization of the company’s business customers’ division. Telenor’s office in Lillehammer is shutting down at the end of next month, with 46 employees being transferred to Fåberg, where operations are being consolidated. Fåberg is within commuting distance, but the move still represents disruption for workers involved.

‘Brutal’
Hege Ottesen, who represents Telenor employees in Førde, called it “a dark and sad day” for those seeing their workplace disappear. “These are loyal employees who have worked for Telenor for a long time, and have competence the company needs,” Ottesen told NRK. “This is brutal for those who have to move or quit.”

Accusations were already flying that Telenor is ignoring its “community responsibility” as a major employer, not least one that remains 54 percent-owned by the state. Telenor, however, pointed to major changes in “the market situation” and technology, plus the need for a profitable organization.

Berit Svendsen, chief executive of Telenor’s Norwegian operationss (Telenor Norge) claimed in a press release that she understands “many colleagues who have done a good job for Telenor for many years have received a tough message.” She promised they will receive “close follow-up” as Telenor’s consolidation operation proceeds.

“It’s no easy decision to cut jobs but at the same time, we must renew and change our competence,” Svendsen said.

Union leaders at the labour organization EL og IT Forbundet nonetheless equated Telenor’s consolidation to “raw and cynical personnel policies,” after claiming that divisions shut down in Stavanger and Førde would be receiving some workers who’d been hired on a temporary basis in Rørvik. Jan Olav Andersen, who heads the union federation, claimed the company was “getting rid of experienced employees and replacing them with young, newly recruited workers who can be paid NOK 150,000 less a year.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund