Answers demanded in Global as ‘Count Me In’ fightback intensifies

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Monday 8th February 2021

BT Global bosses are being robustly challenged over plans to make 16 redundancies in the division’s Digital Delivery Service Organisation (DDSO) and a further five in its Commercial unit – all amid intensifying CWU demands for clarity on the future of the Conferencing operation in Shrewsbury.

Members from all three work areas told of fears for their futures and mounting anger at management decisions apparently driven by a virulent offshoring agenda in a special online meeting that just preceded a significant escalation of the union’s Count Me In campaign of resistance.

Writing in Tribune Magazine last Wednesday, CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr delivered a blunt warning  to BT’s top brass that they need to  “get serious in negotiations or face industrial action” over multiple threats to job security and hard-won terms and conditions that are erupting across BT Group.

The seriousness of that threat was amplified the following day, with Repayment Project Engineers in Openreach not just exceeding but comprehensively trouncing onerous legal thresholds that need to be met for workers to withdraw their labour under the UK’s punitive anti-union legislation.

Voting by 86% on a 94% turnout to take industrial action unless management backtracks on imposed changes to RPE grading, the small but fiercely loyal group of CWU members have delivered the starkest challenge yet to the belligerent and uncompromising management approach sweeping across BT. (See story here) 

Addressing a special online meeting of  Global members just prior to the RPE ballot result, CWU national officer for Global, Allan Eldred, stressed that an unprecedented display of workforce solidarity with the union’s Count Me In campaign across  BT Group is now vital to stop  loyal employees being treated as expendable pawns by a senior management team that has lost its moral compass.

Allan Eldred

Amongst those on the call was a redeployee who is now facing compulsory redundancy despite the fact that only in November he was declared ‘surplus’ to a small team that is now so overstretched that work he could easily conduct is on the verge of being offshored to Hungary.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 11 of the 16 DDSO roles that are being made redundant involve work that Global plans to lift and shift to its existing hubs in India and Hungary.

The single largest group of members on the Zoom call, however, were from Global’s Conferencing unit in Shrewsbury where long-standing fears about the future of the site are now being exacerbated by a sense that it is being deliberately run down, with work gradually being shifted to Hungary.

“We aren’t being told a damn thing and not even our managers know what’s going on,” lamented one member. Another added: “All we can see is slowly things are shifting to Hungary. They’re taking on people there even though work is slow here, and they seem to be getting all the promotions and projects.”

A third member told of her dismay at being asked to assist in the training of a team of new starters in Hungary when UK staff are crying out for work, with another concluding: “We’ve been waiting since this time last year for our fate to be delivered, and the waiting is just driving me insane.”

Allan Eldred concludes: “We’ve forcefully reminded management of their obligations under existing agreements to onshore work to prevent redundancies in the UK – yet in the DDSO situation they are proposing to do quite the reverse.

“Formal counter-proposals have been lodged by the union that will be vigorously pursued – including one covering the  International Bandwidth Group redeployee who should immediately be given his old job back rather than that work being offshored.

“Similarly the CWU’s national team for Global will leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of a satisfactory outcome for our Conferencing members in Shrewsbury who are currently going through a form of torture.”