Virgin Media bosses' bonuses enrage workforce

Virgin Media, the indebted cable operator, has angered unions by unveiling plans to award its executives bonuses just months after cutting more than 2,000 jobs, according to The Times.

Executives who meet qualifying criteria will be awarded up to 100% of their base salary. The intended bonuses were revealed in a filing to the

US Securities and Exchange Commission. A few months ago, the cable group announced it would sack 2,200 people, equating to 15% of its workforce, to cut costs.

The redundancies, which are to start in 2010, are part of a wider plan to reduce costs in the cable group, which has debts of £6 billion (€6.7 billion), by up to £120 million over the next four years.

Virgin Media has also put its prices up and told its 4.8 million customers they will have to pay a penalty charge of £1.25 a month to continue receiving a paper bill, The Times notes.

Grace Mitchell, of the Communication Workers Union, was quoted saying, "At a time when people are losing their jobs and there is a lot of uncertainty, the executives should be taking a lead and looking to forgo these bonuses."

Virgin Media resulted from the merger of the NTL and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Mobile. It has struggled to take on BT and BSkyB as a serious rival and its fourth-quarter figures, issued in February, showed a slump of nearly 40% in the number of people signing up. The service provider it added only 14,800 new customers in the last three months of 2008, compared with 24,000 a year earlier.

The number of broadband, television and telephone packages sold by the group in the period fell to 185,000, from 272,100 a year earlier.