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Proximus workers strike as job negotiations begin
Unions at telecoms company Proximus are meeting with management today to discuss the restructuring plan that caused an uproar among workers last week with the announcement that nearly 2,000 jobs, or 16% of the workforce, would be cut over the next three years.
The announcement also included word that 1,200 new jobs would become available, as the company – a telephone, mobile, internet and digital TV services provider – further digitalises both its services and office support. Unions said the information came as a blow to workers, who were not informed about the plans until after they were leaked to the press following a meeting of the board of directors.
In the meantime, workers plan to strike on Tuesday in protest at the plans. They expect that the day-long action will not be felt by customers, who should experience no disruption to digital or mobile services.
Union negotiations will not be easy, according to acting federal labour minister Kris Peeters, who is meeting with unions today together with acting prime minister Charles Michel and acting digital and telecoms minister Philippe De Backer. Previously a state-owned firm, Proximus is now publicly listed, with a majority of shares (53.5%) owned by the Belgian government.
This means that some of the firm’s staff are still working under contracts as government employees. “Everyone grasps that this situation is extremely complex on many levels,” said Peeters. “There are regular work contracts and government contracts, with different regulations. I am depending on the negotiations to improve the current restructuring plans.”
De Backer told the news programme De zevende dag that there was no question that Proximus had to re-invent itself. “It must introduce new products and services and change a number of methods in this extremely competitive international telecoms market,” he said.
He also suggested that the government should consider abandoning its majority stake in the company. “The government is a shareholder in a telecoms company,” he said, “but a government runs a country not a telecoms company.”