The cuts, which will take place between the end of 1994 and early 1996, will take the number of operators to around 8,000, including directory inquiries staff. This compares with 27,000 three years ago.
BT has already said it will shed a total of 30,000 jobs this financial year and next.
The reductions announced yesterday affect operators taking '100' assistance calls rather than those assisting in directory inquiries. BT said the job losses were necessary because people use operators much less than in the past and the system is now more efficient. 'People are becoming more used to direct dialling and are generally more 'telephone literate'. We expect that trend to continue into the late 1990s,' a BT spokesman said.
The operator centres earmarked for closure are Chester, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow international, Kettering, Leeds, Norwich, Sheffield, Southampton and Taunton. Union officials said the latest job news was a 'devastating blow'. Alan Johnson, general secretary of the Union of Communication Workers, added: 'These closures are on a far greater scale than we could possibly have expected.'
The Telecommunications Users Association said it would be very concerned if there were any reduction in quality of service. The TUA is already in talks with the company about the '152' service, which is used to get information on BT products and for billing inquiries. Vivienne Peters, director of the TUA, said she had become increasingly worried about the standard of this service over the past few months.Reuse content