Massive layoffs are coming to one of the world’s telecom behemoths, and many of the tens of thousands of workers who will get their walking papers will be replaced by artificial intelligence.
U.K. giant BT Group announced Thursday that it will shrink by as many as 55,000 positions by the end of the decade. This, it said, is an effort to cut costs associated with having a workforce of some 130,000 staff members and contractors.
#Layoffs2023 | UK telecom giant BT Group (@bt_uk) to slash 55,000 jobs, accounting for over 40% of its global workforce, by 2030.@nishtha_pandey_ | #Layoffs #BTLayoffs #JobCuts #BT https://t.co/QBIqBOrWz1
— CNBC-TV18 (@CNBCTV18News) May 18, 2023
As many as a fifth of the slashed positions are expected to be occupied by AI. Not surprisingly, the bulk of these jobs that were formerly held by humans but will now be conducted by machines will be in customer service.
BT Group Chief Executive Officer Philip Jansen explained that “whenever you get new technologies you can get big changes.” He confirmed that by the end of this decade, the telecom firm will boast a much smaller payroll and cost base.
He asserted that these new technologies lead to new jobs, though obviously, they eradicate many more.
Jansen said that new AI tools such as ChatGPT are capable of composing essays, writing scripts and poems, and solving computer coding. He added that these capabilities “give us confidence we can go even further.”
AI as envisioned by BT is expected to speed up services to customers without making them feel as though they are “dealing with robots.”
The company, a former U.K. monopoly called British Telecom, is hardly the only big tech firm shedding workers by the thousands. The U.K.-based Vodafone, which provides service in Europe and Africa, recently announced the slashing of 11,000 workers.
The Communications and Workers Union (CWU) represents many of the up to 55,000 who are projected to lose their livelihoods. A spokesperson said the BT announcement is “no surprise.”
The union agreed with company executives that the completion of the new fiber infrastructure replacing the old copper will lead to a smaller workforce. Other new technologies will have the same effect.
The union added, however, that it wants the company to accomplish many of the forecast job cuts first through subcontractors and then through not replacing those who retire or voluntarily leave the business.
BT recently announced that profits through April fell by 12%.