BT Technology site location strategy ‘unacceptable’, warns CWU


The CWU has delivered an unequivocal thumbs down to major site rationalisation proposals unveiled by BT Technology this morning (Thursday) –  warning that hundreds of team member grade employees could potentially be left ‘stranded’ by the business’s aspiration to consolidate most of its operations into just six locations nationwide.

At present Technology’s employees are dispersed across nearly 400 sites – but under the division’s ‘Better Workplace’ strategy announced to the 8,000 impacted staff (including managers) today, the division would consolidate into six ‘UK Hubs’ plus seven ‘Specialist Buildings’ focusing on a single function.

Technology says it wants to implement the unprecedented site rationalisation  “over the next four years” – though no details have yet been given to the union as to how exactly that would be achieved, nor the likely timetable for site closures.

The announcement, which does not affect field staff, prompts a raft of pressing questions as to how a raft of complex people issues stemming from the unprecedented site rationalisation will be handled.

Yet, despite intense efforts by the CWU to extract more information from the business, all the CWU knows at present is that:

  • The six ‘UK Hubs’ would be located in Ipswich, Bristol, Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester and London
  • Just seven additional single-function ‘Specialist Buildings’ would remain beyond that. The specialisms delivered in these locations would be CSOC and support in Sheffield; UK international satellite gateway in Madley; a ‘test centre’ in Borehamwood; broadcast/media functions at BT Tower in London and subsea cable termination in Goonhilly, Penzance and Bude.

Stressing the seriousness of the situation, CWU national officer for BT Technology, Sally Bridge, explains: “Technology’s plans in their present format are simply not acceptable to the CWU, as the impact would be devastating on a significant number of our member and their families, potentially putting livelihoods at risk with no viable alternative employment.

“The CWU has reminded Technology that it is the policy of the union to oppose compulsory redundancies and that we have a legally binding agreement covering BT redundancy arrangements for CWU grades.

“We expect BT to stick to the letter of that agreement – which states that, before formalising any proposals that include potential redundancies, both BT and the CWU will jointly aim to resolve any identified surplus staff through a combination of redeployment, retraining and reskilling, onshoring of work, recruitment freezes, contractor and agency displacement, control of overtime and the use of voluntary paid leaver schemes.

“We’re also urgently seeking information about what will happen to the large number buildings that Technology can’t entirely vacate because of the existence of metro-nodes and other vital equipment.

“That’s a pivotal question, because if these Core Network Locations have to be maintained, why can’t they be utilised to provide solutions for displaced employees who aren’t within travelling distance of one of the six new hubs – just as other CFUs have done in the past?”


Bigger picture…

While necessarily focusing on today’s announcement by BT Technology, the CWU is also questioning why one division of BT Group is pressing ahead with its Better Workplace Location Strategy in isolation – when similar announcements are expected shortly in other divisions which will have a profound impact on the actual redeployment opportunities that are available across the board.

“In our view this is not a message that can be delivered by one CFU without understanding what’s happening in other parts of BT,” Sally insists.