Communications giant BT has confirmed it is set to leave Aberdeen in a matter of months – leaving more than 100 jobs under threat.
Earlier this year, the firm announced it was considering closing New Telecom House due to the cost of the lease on the building, of which it occupied only 10%.
Despite repeated calls for BT to reconsider its plans, the Evening Express can reveal the decision has now been taken to leave the building – and other buildings in the city – by November 20.
It means there will be no desk-based roles with the company in Aberdeen, with those relocated to other parts of the country such as Dundee and Glasgow.
Around 140 jobs are at risk as a result of the move, and a consultation with affected staff is continuing.
North-east Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said: “This is another hammer blow for Aberdeen.
“The staff at New Telecom House deserve better.
“Centralisation may save BT money but I believe more should have been done to keep these jobs local.
“The company must deliver a positive outcome for team members unable to suddenly move to Dundee, through no fault of their own.”
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie added: “I don’t think there could have been a worse time for BT to abandon New Telecom House entirely.
“The north-east needed these jobs to stay.
“But from the outset, it looked as if the decision had already been made.
“This withdrawal will affect dozens of employees, including those who travel from within my constituency, and I hope their needs are being taken into account.
“A blend of home and office working should be on offer, at the very least, to cut down on commuting.”
In a letter explaining the decision, BT said: “This decision has not been reached lightly and we realise that this will be disappointing news for affected colleagues.
“During the coming weeks we will continue to consult individually with colleagues for whom we’ve yet to find a suitable outcome and continue to mitigate redundancies where possible.
“Colleagues will be supported in understanding the options available to them and provided with any relevant information to assist them in making well informed decisions.”
Around 300 engineering roles in the north-east will be unaffected by the decision, while BT expects a number of the affected staff to move to new roles within the firm.
A spokesman for the company said: “We’ve consulted with a small number of office-based colleagues and unions on our proposal to close New Telecom House and a small number of other offices in Aberdeen.
“We only use about 10% of New Telecom House and the lease renewal is costly. We’ve carefully explored all the options, including whether colleagues could work from home permanently. We don’t believe this is a sustainable long-term option as we expect colleagues will be required to work flexibly between the home and office.
“We’ve made the difficult decision to close the offices. Our focus remains to help colleagues find roles within other BT Group sites, such as Dundee – which we announced as a key location in July. There’s no impact to customers and plans to extend our full-fibre network in the area are not affected.”
“BT Group is changing, we’re investing billions of pounds in upgrading the UK’s digital infrastructure with full fibre broadband and 5G mobile, to fuel the country’s economic growth. We’re building a simpler, more dynamic BT, to give customers a better service.”
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart, who branded BT’s consultation on whether to leave the city a “sham” after a meeting earlier this year, called the decision “unforgivable”.
He said: “This is unforgivable from BT in what has been a complete abandonment of the city and its loyal workforce – the consultation was simply a box ticking exercise and staff have been badly let down.
“BT Group have failed to provide a business plan for this move or consider alternative accommodation in the city which I am certain would be cheaper than relocating to a so called “centre of excellence”, which is management speak drivel. A building is not a “centre of excellence” if it does not play host to top notch people.
“Staff had worked so well from home throughout the pandemic but now they’ve been cut adrift. It is utterly ridiculous and completely unbelievable that a communications company claims that it is unable to facilitate a home working network.
“BT must recognise that this situation is nonsensical, damages their reputation and betrays their loyal staff and they should sort this out now and retain jobs in Aberdeen and the north-east.”