Deutsche Telekom workers to strike

German carrier Deutsche Telekom faces a walk out after workers on Thursday voted in favour of a strike.

The carrier has drawn fire over plans to outsource 50,000 staff to three new companies, with new contracts expected to include lower wages and longer working hours.

A statement from trade union Ver.di, released after the lunchtime ballot in Thursday, said that 96.5 per cent of the voters who took part voted in favour of a strike, with some earlier reports suggesting that workers could stage a walk out as early as Friday.

After the union’s central wages committee rejected the terms last week, a strike ballot was called for May 7 to May 9. There has already been a token stoppage, a so-called warning strike in German practice.

Ver.di’s leadership claims that the terms of the transfer, which affects mostly call-centre staff in the carrier’s T-Service division, will amount to a 9 per cent pay cut with increased hours. The union demands that the company offers more money and a long term agreement in return for its consent to the transfer. Ado Wilhelm, the head of Ver.di’s Telecoms and IT section, claims that Deutsche Telekom has refused to discuss this in some five rounds of talks.

The threat of industrial action darkened the skies over Deutsche Telekom further on Thursday, as the carrier’s management claimed the transfer is urgently needed to reduce costs after a disastrous first quarter.

Deutsche Telekom saw profits plummet 58 per cent to Eur459m during the first quarter, as traditional fixed line customers continued to abandon the operator.

First quarter domestic revenue dropped by 5.8 per cent year on year to Eur5.1bn, largely due to the loss of 588,000 fixed lines. The majority of these were unbundled lines (ULL) leased to competitors, with the remaining 104,000 or so lost to mobile substitution and competitive cable services.

The exodus of traditional fixed line customers was slightly offset by the addition of 572,000 broadband subscribers and 2.8 million mobile subscribers worldwide by T-Mobile. But CEO Rene Obermann, is well aware of the pressure.

“The figures show the huge competitive pressure – and pressure to reform – we are currently under, particularly in our German fixed-network business,” Obermann said on Thursday. “It is crucial that the new ‘focus, fix and grow’ strategy continues to be put into action,” he added.

Part of the strategy includes an agreement reached Thursday on the sale of Deutsche Telekom’s French internet subsidiary T-Online France to Neuf Cegetel.

This story will be updated as it develops

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