Vodafone and Three merger could create jobs, firms claim

17 October 2023, 14:34

Three and Vodafone merger
Three and Vodafone merger. Picture: PA

The proposed merger of the mobile operators has been criticised, with warnings that it could see prices rise for consumers and job losses.

A merger of mobile networks Vodafone and Three could create thousands of new jobs in the sector, the two companies have told MPs, amid ongoing scrutiny of the proposed deal.

Trade union has Unite criticised the deal, warning it could lead to higher prices for consumers and job cuts.

But appearing before the House of Commons Business and Trade Committee scrutinising the proposed deal, representatives from the two mobile operators that argued that the work needed to build and maintain the infrastructure required to run the new network would create more jobs in the sector.

When asked by MPs about the possibility of jobs losses as a result of the merger, Nicki Lyons, Vodafone UK corporate affairs and sustainability director, said: “We’re not in a position to give numbers at this stage, we haven’t worked through that level of detail.

“What we do know is that while there is some duplication with head office jobs, the actual number of employees that we will need to create the new infrastructure that we’re investing in will be significant.

“We believe that jobs will actually be created as a consequence of this merger for building the network, to create and support the IT systems and to maintain this new network.”

She added that the companies believed that the better 5G availability created by the merger would also produce a “knock-on benefit to the country as a whole”, as better 5G connectivity could help stimulate small businesses.

Andrea Dona, Vodafone UK’s network and development director said that the company’s own estimates suggest the deal “could create up to 12,000 jobs”.

But George Stevenson, bargaining and investigative researcher at Unite, dismissed that suggestion and warned that the trade union’s research into similar deals in the UK and elsewhere had often seen job cuts as a result and said the proposed merger was a “very worrying sign for workers in these sectors”.

“We can only speak to what is proposed to happen here – the merger of Three and Vodafone – and based on our research of comparable mergers in the UK and the US, we would expect there to be job cuts in the region of 1,000 to 1,600 for Three and Vodafone staff,” he told the committee.

“We also know Vodafone is not shy about cutting jobs – it is currently in the process of axing 11,000 globally, including in the UK.”

In contrast, Three general counsel and regulatory affairs director, Stephen Lerner, said job losses at the network would be more likely if the merger did not happen, noting that the “industry trend is job losses”.

Last week, the UK’s competition watchdog asked third parties to submit their views of the merger ahead of it launching a formal investigation in the deal.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it will be “carefully considering how this deal may affect competition in the UK, which could affect the options and prices available to customers”.

By Press Association

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