NTL axes 1,500 jobs in major shake-up

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The Independent Online

NTL is to cut 1,500 jobs from its cable television and telephony operations, saving the company more than £30m a year.

Simon Duffy, the chief executive, is instigating the cuts from the company's 13,500-strong workforce as part of a rationalisation programme that coincides with the company moving its 2.9 million customers on to a single billing system.

The company has been labouring under 14 different billing systems and 13 call centres, a legacy of the rapid consolidation that the group led in the 1990s to grab control of cable in the UK. It now shares dominance of the country's cable operations with Telewest which has cut its headcount from 10,500 in May 2002 to 8,500.

Although NTL operates in the UK and Ireland, it is owned by US shareholders. It emerged from US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January last year and has to improve efficiency levels to help it compete against BSkyB in pay television and BT Group in the residential telephone market. BT recently launched a new low-cost tariff, sparking a price war.

However, Mr Duffy said NTL could still undercut both BT and BSkyB by offering pay-TV and telephone services in one bundle at a much lower cost than its rivals, which sell the two services separately.

"The main driver of this rationalisation programme is to improve customer service," Mr Duffy said ."Our cost position is superior to the combined cost position of BT or Sky."

The company said that over the next 18 months it would shrink its 13 call centres into three state-of-the-art ones in Manchester, Swansea and Glasgow, supported by four sales and customer support sites. The company will also spend more on new technology, meaning it needs 1,500 fewer staff to deliver its customer service targets.

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