The restructuring plan announced by Proximus in early January is just about saving 240 million euros, unions representing employees of the telecommunications operator said on Wednesday at their hearing with the Chamber’s Infrastructure Commission. The unions all charged that it was the employees who were bearing the brunt of the restructuring whereas the company was fully profitable and had the means to invest in its staff under the digital transition currently being implemented.
On 10 January, Proximus announced a three-year “restructuring plan” including the elimination of 1,900 jobs and the recruitment, at the same time, of 1,250 persons. It said this was necessary to respond to increasing customer demand for new digital services and new types of connectivity such as the Internet of things.
At Wednesday’s commission hearing, the socialist federation, CGSP, said it did not see any real restructuring and that the plan was simply an effort to save 240 million euros. “In addition to the 1,900 forced departures, there are more than 900 natural ones. There are thus 2,800 to 3,000 people who will not be, or will barely be, replaced,” commented Bart Neyens, president of the telecoms sector within the Flemish wing of the socialist federation. He accused the Proximus management of lacking a clear, strategic vision and described the announced plan as a “flight downward”.
The Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (CSC) agreed. It added that the company was starting the current digital restructuring too late. “We cannot agree to having staff pay for that and for mass retrenchment to be advanced as the only solution,” CSC’s Ben Coremans said.
For Jean-Claude Philippon of the General Confederation of Liberal Trade Unions of Belgium (CGSLB), “it’s more of a financial plan than an industrial one, which is what is needed”. He charged that Proximus’ training budget was “largely insufficient” whereas the telecoms giant had 15 million own shares, which came up to 350 million euros.
While the restructuring plan may be necessary, just as the training and digital restructuring currently under way, it is not for the staff to pay for that, he said. Proximus is not in difficulty, he argued, noting that it paid out an average of 500 million euros in dividends.
Philippon and his colleagues called on the political decision-makers to “resolve the problem”.
Proximus CEO Dominique Leroy was scheduled to address the Commission on Wednesday afternoon.