back to article Nothing 'unites teams' like a good relocation, eh Vodafone?

Vodafone is rationalising real estate in the UK to cut costs and – in its words – "unite teams", with the lion's share of its Technology heads to be based at Newbury HQ. Redundancies seem inevitable as staff will be asked to relocate, in some cases, hundreds of miles. Staff were yesterday informed of the “organisational …

  1. Flywheel Silver badge
    FAIL

    asked to relocate, in some cases, hundreds of miles

    It's a pity they're not a communications company - more and more people are working from home/remotely now that high-speed broadband is

    becoming more prevalent!

    1. deive

      They sold a service to help customers move to remote working, making a big deal about how they do it themselves. It is still active on their site too https://www.vodafone.co.uk/our-responsibilities/better-ways-of-working/flexible-working/

    2. devTrail

      There's a big difference in what they know, what they can do and what they want to do in this case.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not long after I left VF they started putting a lot of restrictions on home working, it had to be applied for an not more than x days per week. It used to be an adhoc sensible conversation. Not looking back I can tell you.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aye Right

    "He said that Vodafone expects to have the “same number of employees” when the two-year exercise concludes"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aye Right

      same number of employees....but all concentrated in the high cost Thames Valley, where salaries and housing are expensive, and there's plenty of other employers of tech skills. Give it eighteen months and they'll be whining that they can't get or retain the tech skills, and please can government relax foreign visa rules.

      Sadly this is a typical corporate "property strategy". They do have a complex mess, and they could save some money by dumping the expensive properties. But concentrating in Newbury has only one logic, and that's about concentrating minions where directors have their big offices. Heaven forbid that Vodafone should address its mediocre UK performance by moving its directors and head office somewhere a lot cheaper than Newbury.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Aye Right

        I dont agree. You dont know the Thames Valley very well do you?

        Newbury barely qualifies as TV and most of the big bods are located in Paddington to smooze Voda Group.

        There are a lot more expensive places than Newbury, and its still close enough to tech centers to attract decent talent.

        There is no point in locating to the boonies if you cant get decent staff to fill it.

        Plus the fact Im guessing that the Newbury campus is wholly owned by Vodafone means its much more cost efficient than leasing offices somewhere else. They could of course have flogged the asset and leased it back - but even then Newbury is hardly prime TV real estate, and very few companies would be big enough to take it on, so its a buyers market.

        1. BoldMan

          Re: Aye Right

          Plus it is allowing some of their people to escape from Bracknell, a service to humanity if ever I saw one!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Aye Right

          Planning application in for 400 houses opposite the Vodafone site so at least they can walk to work.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Aye Right

            If memory serves, it's already pretty built up around the Vodaphone site. But I may be thinking of something else; it's been some years since I was last in Newbury.

            The real attraction of Newbury, of course, is that you bask in the warmth of Micro Focus's presence. Ah. You don't need to work for us; proximity alone will raise your spirits, improve your health, and sharpen your skills.

            (I should also note that Newbury's Chequers Hotel is mentioned in Hardy's Jude the Obscure. Really it would be insane for Vodafone to concentrate their presence anywhere else.)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aye Right

        "by moving its directors and head office somewhere a lot cheaper than Newbury."

        Two faults with that logic:

        1) assuming that the places "a lot cheaper than Newbury" have either the required people living there or willing to move there.

        2) part of the reason that Newbury is expensive is the very presence of the Voda campus.

        It's catch-22, you seem to think that they should consolidate their sites, but consolidate it elsewhere - all of that requires cost to build or buy a new site with the capacity to do that (Newbury has a mothballed building on their campus I believe, so no doubt they'll fill that). But wherever they consolidated to would end up gradually increasing in price as demand for housing went up.

        There's a reason the M4 corridor is attractive to businesses and employees.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

    Don't think that's going to cover removal costs, house sell / purchase costs and the extra mortgage...

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

      I was going to bring up a similar point. Why do companies want to move workers into more expensive areas and then not pay them enough to make up the difference in living costs?

      1. Buzzword

        Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

        Because it's where the bosses live. The company thinks it's cheaper and easier to relocate thousands of techies than to relocate a handful of bosses.

      2. Thoguht Silver badge

        Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

        Because these days it's a standard way of getting rid of older employees. Younger people with no houses and no kids settled in schools are much more likely to take up relocation offers.

        The only good thing you can say about this is that at least the alternative is redundancy, in the US if you get offered a relocation package and turn it down you're deemed to have resigned.

        1. Buzzword

          Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

          Fair point. But how many young people with no houses and no kids really want to live in rural Berkshire?

          1. Thoguht Silver badge

            Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

            Newbury is hardly rural these days.

            1. Graham 2

              Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

              It ain't Shoreditch either..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

      If you were a top executive already making hundred of thousands, if not millions, they would have offered also hundred of thousands, if not millions, to relocate...

      Then they are surprised when people start to wear yellow vests and break things around....

      These situations is when you expect unions should do their work - but most unions are just a way to ensure lazy workers are not fired and can reach wealthy status at the expenses of other workers.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

      While £8k doesn't seem much, but it includes the health benefits of reduced intake of irnbru and deep fried mars bars, not having to buy extra vests when the weather gets a bit stabby and surrounding yourself with English people that you loath so you don't have to just complain about them on visits to England is priceless.

    4. StuartFawcett

      Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

      Stamp duty alone on a family home could be £25,000. ergo They don't want to relocate employees with families.

      Head office has no parking though.

    5. TechDrone

      Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

      That's the tax-free limit for company relocation. Any more than that and HMRC start to take a share, even though you can easily end up paying twice that in the various fees, charges, duties, and then tax on top of fees and charges, Plus the cost of actually buying new house of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

        "That's the tax-free limit for company relocation. Any more than that and HMRC start to take a share"

        Confident? Final answer? Well I guess you've never tried phoning Dave Hartnett:

        https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8875360/Taxman-accused-of-letting-Vodafone-off-8-billion.html

        Mind you, maybe that kind of deal is only available to the already rich and infamous, eh Dave.

        1. Gio Ciampa

          Re: £8,000 to relocate from Glasgow to Newbury?

          Glad someone (else) remembered to bring up Dodgy "Dine Me" Dave...

  4. Len Silver badge
    Meh

    At least they are not "uniting them" abroad.

    After the news over the last few days I wouldn't have been surprised if a chunk of them had been "united" to Dublin or Amsterdam.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: At least they are not "uniting them" abroad.

      Well, being slightly technical about it, they are sort of moving some the jobs abroad, the Glasgow ones moving to England...no doubt in cynical preparation for the Brexit fallout which will be Indyref II - The wee nyaff strikes back..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: At least they are not "uniting them" abroad.

        After having to report faults to their customer services and facing difficulty being understood by people with a heavy Indian accent I think they are already somewhat abroad.

        1. Graham 2

          Re: At least they are not "uniting them" abroad.

          Egypt and South Africa.

          1. Korev Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: At least they are not "uniting them" abroad.

            At one point I did VIP iPhone/Pad support in addition to my normal role. One senior guy was deeply unimpressed that I couldn't get data going on his new toy and didn't regard Vodafone support being slow because of the Arab Spring as a valid excuse!

            What I was on the receiving end of -->

          2. Commswonk Silver badge

            Re: At least they are not "uniting them" abroad.

            Egypt and South Africa.

            In the interests of some sort of balance I once (well more than once in fact, but that's another story) had trouble getting my Voda Data Dongle to behave and contacted the helpdesk.

            The lady to whom I spoke (once I got round the ghastly voice - driven menu system; again that's another story) not only sorted the problem out but spoke beautiful clear English with an accent I could not quite place.

            It turned out that she was in Egypt, and her accent was slightly American.

            So it isn't all "bad by definition". Given a free choice I would have extended the conversation by quite some time.

    2. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: At least they are not "uniting them" abroad.

      If Vodafone Ireland (or Czech, Fermany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain) were run from the UK, then they would have to do that to continue complying with GDPR. Otherwise, Brexit isn't going to affect Vodafone UK as much as some other companies.

  5. devTrail

    Reminds me last week article

    It reminds me last week article about IBM using forced relocations as a tool to get rid of older employees. Together with the news about the service departments outsourced with IBM it signals that the downsizing is going on strongly.

    1. EricM

      yep, "IBM-style"

      Maybe elReg can officially coin the term "IBM-style" for this kind of abusive corporate behavior aimed at forcing people to resign?

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    tpyo

    staffers shifted ~ staffers shafted

    How many of them will get relocated nearer their home?

  7. adnim Silver badge

    rationalising

    Dictionary definition doesn't mention greed

  8. Matt Ryan

    Melbourne Street I remember you well. Spent 5 years there almost 20 years ago not long after it was a carpet warehouse.

  9. Bob Vistakin
    Facepalm

    Shitting on their own staff just as much as they do customers

    Consistency is important in these troubled times.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shitting on their own staff just as much as they do customers

      It's a Marketing core concept - Brand Congruence

  10. Whitter
    Thumb Down

    "Workers in the Leeds and some in the Glasgow site will move to the Manchester premises"

    I think you'll find they won't.

    Which is obviously the plan.

  11. adam payne Silver badge

    “A number of roles will be moving office locations as we bring teams together to work in a more simplified, collaborative and agile way, which will further increase our speed of delivery and digital transformation,” Looks like the PR department have thrown some buzz words together again. It's complete nonsense.

    The number of redundancies will obviously be determined over the next weeks

    I'm sure you already have a number in mind, you would have already done your homework on this.

    1. IsJustabloke
      Meh

      hmmmm...

      "I'm sure you already have a number in mind"

      Expect a number with a high correlation to the number of staff in each affected office

  12. AndrueC Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Couldn't work out how to use teleworking effectively then? Sounds like they need to get touch with a good communications provider :)

  13. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

    Being with the bosses has it's advantages

    Out of sight, out of mind is a thing. Personally, my experience is that being in the "head" office is good for both your career and job security.

    Plus Newbury is a nice place to live. Certainly better than London :-)

  14. Big_Boomer

    Relocation sux

    Been through this too many times, sufficient that now when I'm told I'm being relocated, I relocate myself to a different job.

    I can understand some moves, but many of those that I have had forced upon me were simply to make the new CEOs commute easier.

    I worked for a company in the late 90s that was bought out and a new CEO installed who lived in St Albans. The company was based in Basildon, but within 6 months was relocated to Watford. A mere 12 months later and 90% of the staff had left taking with them years of experience and about half of our customers. I myself relocated to the Watford area but 3 years later moved back to Essex and ended up working with many of my former collegues.

    My advice to any company considering relocation, make certain you have rational reasons for the relocation, and count on losing all of your experienced staff, as they are the ones who find it easiest to get another job.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Relocation sux

      "My advice to any company considering relocation, make certain you have rational reasons for the relocation, and count on losing all of your experienced staff, as they are the ones who find it easiest to get another job."

      One of the rational reasons is getting rid of staff. Projected move from central London to outside the M25 a bit further round from Watford - 80% of staff said they'd move. Suddenly the price of the projected new premises went up and the move was to Leeds instead. Very few staff went. It fitted well with schooling - timed nicely for daughter's change to 6th form college - and it was back to God's own county so I was one of them.

  15. tiggity Silver badge

    reasonable commute

    I bet their definition of reasonable commute is dubious.

    Doubtless they will claim it is reasonable for the Leeds folk to commute to Manchester..

    If they think its reasonable I suggest they try a few months of M62 commute (especially in peak rush hours) - and see how long it really takes compared to fantasy time estimate of a maps application..

    .. and public transport alternatives are not likely to be fun in time and cost either with train ticket and parking costs (though if employee lives easy walking distance to train station in Leeds at least time factor not too bad and no obscene car parking costs)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: reasonable commute

      "M62 commute (especially in peak rush hours)"

      And even that assumes there are no road works, accidents or jumpers from Scammonden bridge.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vodafone has been making sneaky redundancies (ungenerous keep quiet settlement packages) for years. Interesting to note after being forced out of my role in Manchester as it was moving to Glasgow, that its now being relocated back to Manchester after only a year.

    Not bitter or anything lol

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not like they have previous for doing this...

      ..oh wait

      again, and again, and again.

      Mind you, they've been trying to get rid of those Bracknell properties ever since they got lumbered with them!

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Vodafone has been making sneaky redundancies (ungenerous keep quiet settlement packages) for years. Interesting to note after being forced out of my role in Manchester as it was moving to Glasgow, that its now being relocated back to Manchester after only a year.

      Not sneaky, but normal for tech companies who run from a seemingly identical HR playbook. Redundancies can be something best done little & often to circumvent statutory regulations, and are a convenient way to reduce costs/wage inflation by removing seniority. Or overlap & pruning headcounts gained from acquisitions. But like others have said, it often results in a brain drain and the staff you probably should want to retain just jumping ship as skills/experience-wise, they're usually the most mobile.

      Frustrating part for me is seeing this kind of announcement repeatedly over the years from telecomms companies. I remember seeing Vodafone's 'mobile office' desk driving around central London promoting their teleworking solutions. Perhaps government should take a look at employee rights and legislate a test to see if at-risk employees could perform their roles via home working to stop relocation as redundancy shenanigans. For many IT staff who don't need to physically touch kit, they probably could, and homeworking would still allow office closures and avoid redundancy costs.

  17. Valerion

    I've been asked to relocate

    My first question was "What job are you going to give my wife?" I don't see why she should give up her career to suit whoever I was working for at the time.

    They also offered £8000 relocation. And I pointed out that would nowhere near cover the costs of selling and buying. They seemed to think I could use some equity in my house to cover costs... Er, no.

    I stayed where I was and relocated to a higher paying job elsewhere instead.

  18. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "saving £21m over the next three years.”

    Those who were there will remember the savings total announced when their rival moved from Euston to Leeds. They will also remember that the breakdown of the projected savings fell a million short of the claimed total. The accountant responsible should have realised that quoting a series of numbers with one significant figure was almost guaranteed to produce a rounding error if the total was quoted to two and that everyone would instantly notice.

    They'll also remember that out of about 5 of the management team who made that decision only one of them actually made the move. I wonder if Voodoophone's management will be similarly enthusiastic.

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