Telefonica was tipped to begin negotiations with unions in Spain over a voluntary redundancy programme designed to cut between 2,000 and 4,000 members of staff in the first half of 2022.

Reuters reported the operator was set to open dialogue with staff representatives by the end of the month, with a UGT union spokesperson noting, although some employees would want to take a redundancy package, the “destruction of jobs” was bad news.

Should the cuts take place, Telefonica would be the third of Spain’s operators to announce a round of layoffs in 2021 following Vodafone in September and Orange in May. Both its peers cited high levels of competition in the market for their respective moves.

In its Q3 results analyst and media call last week Telefonica COO Angel Vila warned rising energy prices and a “tougher competition base” would likely mean it would be forced to “activate even further efficiencies in our Spanish operation”.

The company has run an early retirement plan for staff during previous attempts to reduce costs in its home market operation.