BT Technology National Day of Support: Why We’re Fighting

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Thursday 20th August 2020

Today is the CWU’s National Day of Support for BT Technology Workers, and it has been wonderful to see members from all wings of the union sharing our material on social media, in WhatsApp chats, and on Facebook pages.

Today is all about our union. It couldn’t be more important that CWU members in BT Technology know that the combined might of the union is by their side.

For BT Technology workers, their current fight is new terrain. In the past, we dealt with job losses through redeployment. There were alternative ways, such as voluntary leave packages, that would allow workers to leave with dignity.

But for the first time in BT Technology, CWU members have been moved into formal redundancy processes which will soon mean that people will be made redundant.

Many might think that in the grand scheme of things, this is a small part of BT. But BT Technology is a crucial wing of the company, dealing specifically with all telecommunication networks, from telephony, broadand/internet and TV. They are the people who deliver these vital networks and provide IT systems for people across the country.

For years, there have been no compulsory redundancies in BT. We have a legally binding agreement that means certain steps must be taken prior to any consideration of redundancies.  However, this has now been ignored.

Selection pools have been created meaning that management are picking and choosing who leaves in these redundancies. Our agreement has been ignored, and we are sadly being forced to seek legal advice on the matter.

Currently, it looks like 187 out of approximately 250 jobs are to go. Some roles are ceasing, some roles are being automated, and some roles are being relocated.  Jobs are being moved to BT Technology’s centre at Ipswich, and workers from London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Sheffield are being told that if they can move to Ipswich, they can hold on to their job.

When in May I met with Howard Watson, the most senior BT Technology figure, he was overflowing with pride for his employees.

But now, only a few months down the road, many of our members feel they are how are being treated with contempt, it seems like in BT Technology, they’re good enough to work round the clock at the height of a crisis to ensure that every emergency is met.  Now the crisis has slightly abated, they are no longer worthy of respect.

Our message to the CEO, Howard and the rest of  BT Technology senior management is simple: take on board what we’re saying. The situation is surreal. In our survey of members, it was shown that there was more than enough people who would want to leave the company. They are trying to force through compulsory redundancies where they could do it easily through voluntary means.

Let’s have a real sit down, and talk about the people who want to go through with a voluntary redundancy package. There is no need for  workers to uproot their lives and families to go to Ipswich – many of these jobs can be done from home or remotely, adopting the smart working principles.  If there’s a skills gap, let’s work jointly through it because it’s not as if these skilled workers can’t be retrained for another purpose.

Our campaign is a call for sanity and reason. All we’re saying is that it doesn’t have to be this way. It is wrong to ride rough shod through a nationally binding agreement. It isn’t right to force through compulsory redundancies when you can undertake them through voluntary means.

BT Technology workers want everybody in the union to keep an eye out for this dispute. The gloves are off. We’re talking, but they don’t want to talk about the things their workers want to talk about, and that has to change. We urge you to keep on showing your support for the CWU arguments – because an attack on even a small section of us is an attack on all of us.

  By Sally Bridge, CWU National Officer