Anger builds as talks commence on shambolic IT outsourcing and associated redundancies

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Wednesday 27th January 2021

Urgent answers to a host of pressing questions are being demanded for dozens of members of BT’s Digital Workplace Services Team who were last week placed at risk of compulsory redundancy just after learning they are about to be TUPE transferred  to a new employer.

It was a week ago yesterday (Tuesday January 19) that the time-delayed  redundancy bombshell was dropped  on 33 members of the 86-strong team – just as the whole group were reeling from the bolt from the blue that their work is being outsourced to Computacenter on April 1.

Tomorrow (Thursday) the CWU will be representing the interests of all 86 members of the team at the first formal meeting with BT and Computacenter since last week’s shambolic announcement.

Some of the impacted group have experienced no fewer than three previous TUPEs – all at the behest of BT – in a circular journey that began with their initial outsourcing, ironically to Computacenter, in 2002.

None of the previous transfers, however, have involved the redundancy threat that now hangs over all 27 members of Technology’s Leicester and Wolverhampton-based ‘Device Build/Swap’ team and two Enterprise employees carrying out similar laptop configuring and repair work at the Leicester site.

All those members will enter into a potential compulsory redundancy process on day one of their Computacenter employment on account of the pre-announced relocation of their work to the outsourcer’s  Hatfield headquarters – prompting a myriad of complex questions over contractual entitlements and associated redundancy terms.

Also mired in uncertainty is the fate of four other members of the  Enterprise ‘Break Fix/ Swap’ team – two of whom are based in Adastral Park, one in BT Centre and one in a workshop – with the union urgently seeking confirmation as to whether or not their work will be affected by the transfer.

With voluntary redundancy on BT terms already being offered to not just the Device Build /Swap Technology members but also all six of the Enterprise employees – not just those who already know their work is moving to Hatfield – there’s a grim sense of foreboding that the outsourcing appears to be predicated first and foremost on cost-cutting.

The situation regarding the job continuity of the 53 impacted individuals known as ‘Greenshirts’ –  who conduct vital  IT maintenance and repair work at every single BT and EE call centre – is much simpler. None are believed to be at risk and BT is now saying they will all  be transferring over to Computacenter as BT needs to ensure that there is maintenance of service.

As such, the union’s primary focus for this group of members will be identifying any areas where financial detriments to transferees need to be addressed – including some form of compensation for the loss of BT Broadband.

Sally Bridge

Cruel abandonment by BT

Anger  at the looming TUPE and associated redundancies was never far from the surface at a special  members’ meeting on Monday – along with  a gnawing sense of betrayal at BT’s abandonment of employees  who’ve  worked tirelessly through the pandemic to keep the company’s IT systems up and running.

“Coming into lockdown 3 and still in a pandemic it’s simply cruel that they’ve dropped this on us at the drop of a hat,” observed one member.

“At a time when most people have been working from home we’ve have been in the whole time for operational reasons,” he added, stressing his disbelief that, for some, the ‘reward’ for that loyalty will be compulsory redundancy.

“I don’t know anyone who wants to move out of BT,” insisted member another, pointedly asking why the union had not simply rejected the outsourcing proposal in its entirety.

While sympathising with the member’s frustration, CWU assistant secretary Sally Bridge pointed out that employment law is not stacked on the side of workers.

“There are lots of things going on in the company at the moment that we don’t agree with and utterly oppose, but the fact is that BT doesn’t need our agreement to do this,” Sally insisted.

“Technology has an appalling track record of outsourcing and offshoring IT work, and we’ve already made our position very clear that we believe this is unacceptable, immoral and plain wrong.

“We need to accept, however, that all the company needs to do legally is consult with us over the transfer terms – and that’s something we have to do, simply to protect member’s interests as much as we possibly can.”

dave stuart

Dave Stuart

Technology national team member Dave Stuart agreed – stressing that, while the TUPE into Computacenter is a “kick in the teeth” for members who’ve given their all to BT, it’s important to remember who is ultimately to blame for the outsourcing decision.

“Be clear – BT is pushing your work out,” he stressed. “Please don’t make the mistake of falling out with your new employer, either in the process of the TUPE or on getting there. They’re not the cause of this – BT is!

  • ‘Push us at your peril’, BT Group warned: See story about last month’s 97.9% consultative ballot vote on industrial action here