The decision by BT not to award contracts for a major project to any UK companies could damage the UK’s high-tech skills base and lead to thousands of job cuts at network equipment firm Marconi, union leaders claim.
BT omitted Marconi from its preferred supplier list for its £10bn “21st Century Network” (21CN) project, drawing criticism from trade union leader Peter Skyte of Amicus.
He said that the decision will seriously damage the UK’s high-tech skills base, “and could potentially result in Marconi cutting up to three-quarters of its 4,300 staff and its ability to continue as a free-standing company.
“No other advanced country would allow such a strategic investment decision affecting its national infrastructure to be contracted to foreign-owned suppliers,” he told The Register, an IT news website.
Skyte also called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to intervene to “try and sustain employment in the UK’s telecoms industry”.
But a spokeswoman for the DTI said: “This was a competitive tender and a commercial decision for the company [BT].”
A spokesman for BT added: “This is the real world and we have to operate in it.”