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Altice slashes French jobs as it feels investment pinch

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased demand for telecoms services so, counterintuitively, Altice France plans to cut as much as 11% of its workforce this year.

The telco, which operates as SFR, has set out a new multi-pronged strategy to see it through to 2025, the key tenet of which is hefty job cuts. Much of the rest of the document is a justification of the decision, the two main elements being that increased demand means big network investments, and secondly that SFR has ambitions to grow its fibre and 5G businesses and that too means heavy spending.

To be completely fair to SFR, its plan is a little more targeted than that. Footfall at retail outlets is down by 30%, it says – hardly surprising, given the prevalence of the ‘stay indoors’ message across Europe for much of the past 12 months – and it clearly doesn’t expect that to change, as consumers increasingly use online channels instead.

“The development of the store network begun in 2019 will continue to reach as planned 568 stores in the metropolitan area by the end of 2022, as planned,” SFR said. “However, this number may change over the next five years in order to support the increasing digitization of commercial interactions.”

To get to the numbers, SFR plans to shed 400 staff directly linked to its retail outlets and a possible 1,300 positions, taking the total to 1,700, all of which will leave the company this year. That’s around 11% of the telco’s 15,000-strong workforce in France. The cuts will be voluntary, Altice said, and it is currently holding discussions with the relevant parties about support for those taking up the offer.

The remaining four points of SFR’s workforce plan centre on the recruitment of young graduates in digital skills roles; and increase in apprenticeships; new training for all staff; and monitoring of the ongoing working from home situation.

“Over the past year, every French person has entered a period which has turned their daily life upside down. Altice France-SFR’s responsibility today is to continue to adapt to meet the growing and accelerated demands of consumers and organizations in terms of digital technology,” said Grégory Rabuel, Managing Director of SFR, in a statement. “At a time when we are already in a phase of massive investments for fibre and 5G, as one of the players on which the entire digital economy is based, we must put ourselves in working order and set ourselves high targets to meet this level of demand. This is what we are proposing with this “Transformation and ambitions 2025″ plan.”

SFR said it aims to connect more than 90% of French households to fibre by 2025, to densify its 4G network and to cover 98% of cities with 5G. It aims to sign up 5 million new FTTH customers and provided a slightly looser target on 5G: to “be the market leader” in terms of subscriptions.

This type of ambition and the network expansion that goes with it costs money, as Altice is well aware. Its new simplified organisation, in line with increased digitization from both customers and employees, will help support this, it insists. The strategic plan will “guarantee future investments and build growth prospects in the consumer and enterprise markets,” the telco said.

And it will reduce the telco’s staffing costs, of course.

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