Sunday, 27 September 2020

BT’s forced redundancies an “attack on key workers”, says union

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Friday 07 August 20

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is threatening to strike on a massive scale if negotiations are not forthcoming

A recent article by Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary of the CWU, published in the Tribune, slams BT’s plans for compulsory redundancies for some of the key workers that have helped keep the UK connected during the pandemic.    “Put yourselves in our members’ shoes: they’ve worked every single day of the pandemic, their working environments have changed…

A recent article by Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary of the CWU, published in the Tribune, slams BT’s plans for compulsory redundancies for some of the key workers that have helped keep the UK connected during the pandemic. 

 

“Put yourselves in our members’ shoes: they’ve worked every single day of the pandemic, their working environments have changed, they’ve put themselves at risk. And now, the reward for hundreds of our members is the prospect of the sack. This union cannot and will not accept that,” read the piece. 

 

The article went on to threaten “the biggest trade union campaign the telecommunications sector has ever seen” if a compromise cannot be reached. 

 

BT’s plans to cut staff have been a long time coming. Having first announcing a new slimline strategy in 2018, the company last June confirmed that its 300 offices would be reduced to just 30. This reduction, part of BT’s overall five-year plan to save £2 billion, entailed the reduction of its roughly 100,000 strong work force by around 13,000 workers.

 

At the start of April this year, when the UK was gripped by the height of the coronavirus pandemic, BT announced that it would not cut jobs for the following three months. Now that period is over, it seems that some jobs are back on the chopping block, in line with their previous goals.

 

This rapid return to slimming down their workforce is hardly surprising – when it comes to European telcos, BT has one of the highest staff counts around. O2 UK and Vodafone UK combined have only around 31,000 employees, while the entirety of Vodafone Group employs 98,000. With most European operators beginning to see a decrease in staff thanks to automation and additional digitalisation, BT is likely well overdue for such cuts.

 

That said, the CWU is of course perfectly correct to fight for its members jobs, especially given their exemplary work during the coronavirus pandemic. With the country’s economic situation set to darken as a result of the crisis, stable jobs are now more valuable than ever. Hopefully an amenable compromise can be found.

 

“My last message is to BT Group: over the years we’ve made tremendous progress together. By abandoning this direction, you risk an industrial action ballot and ultimately strike action if we cannot reach agreement,” said Kerr’s statement. “Our union will not stand by and see the workers who have built BT made compulsorily redundant as shareholders line their pockets and BT Sport presenters receive gold-plated contracts. Our door is open for genuine negotiations.” 

 

How is the workforce of UK telcos changing? Find out from the operators themselves at this year’s Connected Britain

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