The anticipated merger between Vodafone and Three in the UK has become a topic of contention as predictions suggest it might lead to the creation of around 12,000 jobs. However, Unite the Union, one of the country’s leading trade unions fiercely challenges this assertion. The union anticipates an adverse effect on staffing levels, predicting job cuts in the region of 1,000 to 1,600, should the merger proceed. The research by George Stevenson, Unite’s Bargaining and Investigative Researcher, has been based on the study of similar mergers in the UK and across the Atlantic.

Stevenson was critical of Vodafone, affirming, “Vodafone is not exactly shy about cutting jobs,” reflecting on the company’s recent global announcement of shedding 11,000 positions. Hinting at Three UK’s relatively uninspiring record on job losses, he went on to express his concern for the workers in these sectors, due to the potential merger.

Vodafone and Three, in contrast, uphold a different perspective on the potential impact of their merger in the UK. Their assertion included an £11 billion pledge to enhance network coverage and a cautionary note regarding the potential failure of one or both companies, should they be denied the merger. Nicki Lyons, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability Director at Vodafone UK, citing the constant challenges faced while running the network in the UK, reiterated this point.

While the two companies enthusiastically projected the proposed investment figure, they fell short of delivering any specific figures concerning staffing levels. Lyons further admitted that while the merger might result in some head office job duplications, the merger’s resulting new infrastructure would necessitate new positions in areas like network building, IT systems, and network maintenance.

Andrea Donà, Vodafone UK’s Network and Development Director, also hinted at job creation possibility, referring to the certain decommissioning of duplicate sites, upgrade of retained sites, and broader network rollout. With an expectation to extend Vodafone’s network to 26,000 from the current 18,000, he believes that the merger could lead to the creation of around 12,000 jobs, hence requiring considerable labor.

This expected surge in labor might shift the focus to the sourcing of labor for the network. Nick Johnson, Head of the UK Telecoms Innovation Network (UKTIN), points out that the companies are likely to face challenges while accessing talent and skills. “The challenge that Vodafone and Three will need to overcome is access to talent and skills, because when innovating, people are your lifeblood,” Johnson said.

Stephen Lerner, General Counsel and Regulatory Affairs Director at Three, was keen to underline that an absent merger paints a grim picture for UK telecommunications workers. He was skeptical about the long-term outlook at Three, hinting at their inability to invest due to their subscale nature. As this merger attempt develops, it remains vital to observe the unfolding narrative from Vodafone and Three. The real outcome regarding the job issue is yet to be ascertained. However, the controversial merger story is likely to continue to make headlines in the telecommunication space.