Telenor slashes Norwegian jobs

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Telenor, the Norwegian international telecommunications giant, slashed almost 850 jobs throughout spring. Unions accused Telenor of “social dumping” by outsourcing work to cheaper Asian markets, but the company argued it had to restructure to stay competitive.

The Thai dance troupe waved Thai and Norwegian flags when their performance ended. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Telenor expanded into Asian markets 17 years ago, and last June celebrated its long-standing affiliation with Thailand and its growing Asian operations. Now, unions fear the loss of 850 jobs in Norway and outsourcing of operations to Asia will lead to further job losses, reduce skills locally, compromise information security and lead to social dumping. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

Last month the partially state-owned company said it needed to cut 450 full time equivalent positions from its Norwegian operations, roughly one in 10 jobs. On Monday newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported the number of jobs in the group had been reduced by almost 850, with 750 of those in Norway. At the start of the year, Telenor had about 6,600 staff in Norway.

Since March, Telenor has cut staff through redundancy packages, closing its customer service department in Finnsnes, and selling its international television security firm Conax. Management is now considering outsourcing parts of Telenor Global Shared Services, an internal company dealing with shared administrative services like finance, accounting and internal customer service for the whole Telenor Group in 13 markets. The move could affect more than 200 employees, including 100 in Norway.

Outsourcing to Asia
Bjørn Andre Anderssen from the Negotia union told DN he believed Telenor was going to outsource its internal number and documentation divisions to a cheaper workforce in Asia. He has requested a meeting with Trade Minister Monica Mæland and written to the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Datatilsynet), voicing his concerns about information security if parts of the Global Shared Services group is outsourced.

“Telenor is about to completely throw out all of its human knowledge, and now it’s happening brutally over the whole country,” Anderssen said. “It is difficult to accept that they want to move tasks to low-cost countries in Asia, like Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is social dumping of Norwegian workplaces.”

Per Gunnar Salomonsen is the employee representative for the Electrician and IT workers union (EL & It forbundet). He slammed the closing of the Finnsnes service department and the steady outsourcing of operations. “Telenor outsources tasks to buy them back again,” he said. “Here Telenor is losing core competencies. The group employs a staff policy that doesn’t have a future. The consequence is that workplaces become less secure.”

“There will be fewer staff left in Telenor,” Salomonsen warned. “The pressure on individual staff will increase. If the trend doesn’t turn, it will end up with only the head office at Fornebu left in Norway.”

Continuous improvements
Telenor’s head of information, Glenn Mandelid said Telenor was not the same company today as it was 15 years ago. “If we had been, we would not have been competitive,” he told DN. “Therefore it’s an important part of Telenor’s culture to work with continuous improvements.”

He said while the Norwegian operations had to adapt to changes in technology, it was not the case that Telenor Norway would be left a branch office. “Norway is an important home market,” said Mandelid. “In addition we learn a lot from Telenor Norway that we take with us internationally.”

He rejected the accusations that considerations to outsource Global Shared Services could lead to social dumping. “The company delivers services in Norway, Europe and Asia, and we’re evaluating how we can do this in the best possible way. Telenor does not engage in social dumping. We have strict requirements of our partners and suppliers.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate