Now, more than two months later, it turns out that the farewell was apparently less clear-cut than it seemed at the time. According to several insiders, Deutsche Telekom still employs a significant number of employees at its Russian sites. Internal news also suggests that security measures have been relaxed again in the meantime.
Apparently, Deutsche Telekom can only slowly separate itself from its Russian specialists. Peter Leukert, the group’s head of IT, is said to have mentioned internally in mid-May that a large number of the colleagues originally employed in Saint Petersburg are still working for Deutsche Telekom there today. A full settlement is not expected until next year. In Bonn, however, even executives had assumed that no software was being developed for Deutsche Telekom from Russia in the meantime.
A spokesman for the Group will leave it open on request when the deduction will be completed. He only informs that “the vast majority of services are now provided from outside Russia”. Deutsche Telekom is closing its Russian sites. This is a “complex process” on which one does not want to comment in detail. Customers could assume that “all conceivable threat scenarios” are taken into account in the security assessment.
After the outbreak of the war, Deutsche Telekom initially maintained software development in Saint Petersburg and at two other locations. The management even had money and IT equipment brought to Russia in order to remain able to act for months, if necessary, despite sanctions. “Fortunately, our employees in Russia are safe and able to work at the moment,” Claudia Nemat, Chief Technology Officer, said in an internal email at the time. In addition to the well-being of the colleagues on the ground, the leadership was apparently primarily concerned with being able to use them without interruption despite the Ukraine crisis. They have made sure that “they can continue to work in most scenarios that we can imagine,” reassured Nemat.
However, the headquarters in Bonn increased the security precautions: new program code from Russia now had to be checked before feeding in. The fear of intelligence agencies that could potentially compromise Russian colleagues went around.
Russians are working on crucial projects
For this reason, too, many employees experienced the decision to withdraw as an exemption. It was preceded by two public letters from works councils calling on the Board to act. Additional pressure arose because Deutsche Telekom had been admitted to the “Hall of Shame” of the elite American university Yale – a kind of pillory for corporations with continued involvement in Russia. Just one day after the listing, the closure of the Russian sites was announced.
Currently, many Western companies are facing the challenge of doing business in Russia. For many, it’s an expensive, frustrating goodbye. Corporations such as Henkel or Siemens only reacted when public pressure threatened to endanger business. SAP, which initially hesitated for weeks, recently cut its revenue forecast for the current year by 300 million euros as a result of the deduction.
Telekom had no significant business in Russia. She made herself dependent on software developers who, from Russia, were driving fiber-optic expansion in Germany or a uniform customer app. Strategically important projects that the Board apparently does not want to postpone.
According to reports, colleagues at other Deutsche Telekom locations will not be able to take over the tasks of their Russian colleagues at short notice. In Germany, corresponding skills have been reduced in the past. The actions of the Group’s management make it clear how much it is apparently dependent on the Russians.
At the end of March, it was reported that Russian employees had been offered to continue working for Deutsche Telekom from other countries. “Many” of them would have also used this option. The group does not want to give concrete figures even today.
However, Telekom CEO Höttges revealed what was meant by foreign countries at the Annual General Meeting on April 7. When asked by a shareholder representative, he spoke of almost 2,000 people – Russian telecom employees and their families – who the group had accommodated in holiday hotels in Antalya, Turkey. This is an unusual procedure, which some top managers in Bonn consider at least delicate.
“Extended business trip” to Antalya
At the end of April, the “Wirtschaftswoche” visited a Turkish five-star department that Deutsche Telekom had booked. According to the report, about 400 Russian programmers and their family members were housed there alone. They were happy and grateful to be able to leave their home country – but looked forward to an uncertain future.
However, the stay in Antalya has little in common with holidays. According to insiders, the experts were immediately reinstated. As a safety precaution, Group IT previously equipped them with new computers.
Since the Russians are now abroad, some of them are said to have again enjoyed extended access rights as so-called “trusted users”. According to reports, they were tasked, for example, with checking the new program code of their colleagues who remained in Russia.
It remains to be seen how long the stay, which is referred to internally as an “extended business trip”, will be extended. Usually Turkey allows guests from Russia to stay for three months. In the medium term, the Russian employees are to move to Telekom locations in Europe – also to Germany. Höttges and CFO Christian Illek had already envisioned such options in February. Apparently, some programmers have left Antalya for their homeland again.
Höttges called the unusual exit program at the Annual General Meeting in April a “deeply humane solution”. There was no mention of the colleagues remaining in Russia at that time.
In the long term, you probably have no future in the Group. A few days after Höttge’s statement, Deutsche Telekom announced that it would no longer employ employees “who cannot or do not want to work outside of Russia”. A generous transition period is likely to suit both sides.