More than 1,000 Nokia employees walk out in Tampere in protest at Symbian phase-out
Job cuts likely in Oulu, Tampere, Salo, and in the Helsinki area
Around a thousand Nokia employees in Tampere walked out on Friday afternoon in protest at the announcements made earlier in the day concerning the company's future and that of the Symbian operating system used in Nokia smartphones, given that the company has unveiled plans to embark on a close strategic partnership with Microsoft, and to use Windows Phone 7 as its primary software platform.
"A good many of them used the opportunity for this offered by flexitime arrangements", said Kalle Kiili, a shop steward for senior Nokia staff in Tampere.
The personnel are particularly worried about the prospects of those working with the Symbian system.
Nokia has slightly less than 3,000 employees in Tampere, around 1,500 of whom work on Symbian, which the company is now planning to phase out.
In Oulu, too, many Nokia staffers are fearful for their employment future.
Oulu could lose as many as several hundred jobs if work cannot be found for those working in the design and development of the Symbian and MeeGo platforms.
Hundreds of shocked and confused Nokia employees streamed out of the Teatria auditorium in Oulu to waiting buses in the yard.
The moods were conflicting. Mikko Merihaara, representing senior office staff, reported that the company has just under 2,000 employees in Oulu.
A thousand or so of these work with the Symbian OS and some 600 on the MeeGo platform.
”The only thing that is perfectly clear is that the work is going to fall off in the development of Symbian. If we get new work from the Windows side of the arrangement, then there will be no redundancies. Even so, people are fearing there will be reductions in staffing", said Merihaara.
According to Nokia President and CEO Stephen Elop, the Symbian and MeeGo operating systems will only disappear gradually from the Nokia handsets in favour of Windows Phone 7, which Nokia is to adopt "as its choice smartphone platform".
Merihaara commented that no information has been forthcoming as yet on possible staff reductions and the timetable for these.
The staff heard of the changes in prospect this morning, at prearranged briefings.
According to Merihaara, some of the employees did not go back to their workplace for the remainder of the day.
The situation was equally grim in Salo, where those filing out after being told of the mobile phone manufacturer's new strategic direction had little to say to the media.
On the other hand, the changes announced by the Nokia management have at least removed the guesswork and wild rumours about the company's future direction.
"Mr. Elop is himself from Microsoft [Elop came to Nokia last September from a position as head of the Business Division, responsible for the Microsoft Office suite of products], so I suppose it should not be such a surprise that we're moving from Symbian to Windows Phone", said product development project manager Jari Randelin immediately after the Salo staff info session, where Elop spoke by video link from London to all Nokia personnel around the world.
"For my own part, things are still in flux. it is of course a pretty revolutionary step when we are bringing in a big software company to make the software we have previously designed ourselves", commented Randelin, who has worked for the company for 16 years.
According to the Minister of Economic Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen (Centre Party), Nokia has issued a warning to the government of future staff reductions. Pekkarinen did not specify when this warning came, but reported that jobs are at risk in Oulu, Tampere, in the Greater Helsinki area, and also in Salo, where as many as 4,000 work for the company, 1,600 of them in production.
The Nokia Group, including Navteq and Nokia Siemens Networks, currently employs around 132,000 people worldwide, with some 20,000 of them working in Finland, plus a large number of subcontractors.
Pekkarinen also had no details on the scale of the payroll cuts, but warned that this could be a big blow.
"Nokia itself will announce the details of any redundancies in due course, but it may be that this is in any event a large matter...It could be easily the greatest structural upheaval that Finland has ever seen in the new technology sector", said Pekkarinen, in an oblique reference to the fact that Finland has seen more than its share of 'structural upheaval' of late in traditional industries such as pulp & paper or shipbuilding.
Pekkarinen nevertheless remains confident that Nokia intends to stay put in Finland and is not planning to move abroad.
He also promised, together with Minister of Labour Anni Sinnemäki (Greens), that the government was preparing measures to help areas that might be seriously affected by any changes, involving either Nokia staff or subcontractors, and that it would work with Nokia to reduce the impact of any job cuts.
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