Dutch telecommunication provider Koninklijke KPN NV's plan to fire 4,800 employees, about 10 percent of its workforce, could negatively affect the company's customers as remaining employees face an increased workload, KPN's works council warned Thursday.
"KPN will have to show where it can cut, that it can handle the same amount of work with fewer employees," said Caroline Sarolea, chairman of the works council, which represents KPN employees.
The bulk of the cuts, 2,600, will be in the fixed-line telephony unit, KPN said in a statement. This includes repairmen and other service staff, KPN spokeswoman Martine Kooreman said.
"We will look at the workload and cut where possible. Customers shouldn't have wait longer for a repairman after the restructuring operation," said Kooreman, who said she herself is also anxiously waiting to hear if she can keep her job.
KPN customers understand cuts are necessary and aren't worried about service levels, said Cees Tromp, director of Dutch business user group Vereniging van Bedrijfstelecommunicatie Grootgebruikers (BTG), which represents multinationals.
"It would be speculation to say the customer will be hit. We do have discussions about this with KPN. I don't expect KPN to cut back in parts of the company the customer sits," said Tromp.
Customers face uncertainty, just as the employees do, according to works council chair Sarolea.
"We don't know exactly what parts in the affected company segments will be hit. If the front office is affected, then the customer will notice it," she said.
The cuts, announced Thursday, are part of a broad restructuring plan that calls for the elimination of 8,000 jobs to return the telecommunication company to financial health. Some 2,000 temporary and contract workers have already been dismissed, KPN said.
KPN owes 22.8 billion euros, a debt amassed when the company acquired German mobile operator E-Plus Mobilfunk GmbH & Co and purchased 3G (third-generation) mobile phone licenses.
Belgacom NV, KPN's counterpart in Belgium, late on Wednesday announced it would fire between 3,000 and 4,000 employees. Most of the positions have become redundant because of the "technological evolution in the telecommunication industry," Belgacom said. Customers won't be affected, according to the company.