Clarity and assurances sought for members following BT Sport redundancy bombshellTelecoms & Financial Services, BT January 26 2023
Major concerns have been expressed by the CWU over Warner Bros Discovery’s (WBD) shock announcement that more than 200 former BT Sport employees are being placed at risk of redundancy.
While only a small number of team member employees are impacted, with the vast majority of the ‘at risk’ group comprising managerial grades, serious questions are being forcefully asked by the union about the timing and rationale for the proposed job cuts which involve every single one of the BT Sport employees who were TUPE’d over to the joint venture on November 1.
At no point in the TUPE discussions was the possibility of any redundancies, let alone mass ones, admitted by the company – and there was no mention whatsoever of looming job losses in the TUPE ‘measures’ that are supposed to ensure clarity and prior warning of major changes post-transfer.
At the time of the joint venture between WBD and BT Group being agreed last spring, BT chief executive Philip Jansen heralded the move as a win/win – commenting at the time “we’re going to see upsides, no downsides.”
That upbeat assessment, it now transpires, did not extend to transferring BT Group employees, for whom the redundancy bombshell came as a complete bolt from the blue on Friday January 13. Some of the impacted staff were reportedly informed of the decision via a Zoom call.
The reasons given for the proposed redundancies relate to the lease expiring later this year on BT’s Sport’s flagship site in Stratford’s Olympic Park and the impending launch of a new consumer brand, combined with an operating loss of £222m.
The company has stated that none of the current BT Sport roles will exist in the new WBD structure due to a combination of the cost savings they are seeking to achieve, and the introduction of a new brand/ content strategy. All activities currently conducted at the present Stratford site will transfer to existing WBD facilities in Chiswick and Stockley Park near Hayes.
Given that both those London-based sites may be commutable for Stratford-based staff – and the fact that two of the impacted CWU members are homeworkers, and anther is an outside broadcast engineer not tied to any particular site – the union has this morning (Thursday) been asking probing questions as to what is actually happening to their work, and whether a true redundancy situation even exists.
This morning’s meeting with WBD will be followed by a specially convened online members’ meeting tomorrow (Friday) – to which all impacted CWU members have already been invited.
National officer Stephen Albon explains: “We’re determined to ensure that all vacancies and redeployment opportunities within WBD are fully explored, including roles that could potentially be carried out at home.
“The company has already provided us with a list of vacancies across the whole organisation, and we will work and support members with this list.
“There’s no doubt, however, that the proposed redundancies have come as a massive shock so soon after the TUPE transfer into Warner Bros Discovery.
“As such we’ve raised major concerns over the speed of the changes that have been announced, because in our opinion the company must have been considering these changes before the TUPE took place.
“If that’s the case, not including these proposals in the TUPE ‘measures’ would have been a serious omission – because had members been aware of potential redundancies they may have looked to remain with BT.”
Telecoms & Financial Services Executive member Dave Tee, who is also representing the interests of the union’s members in WBD added: “Questions urgently need answering by the company, including how the job of an outside broadcast engineer who works from a van has apparently disappeared under this restructure, along with the role of someone currently conducting high level complaints which will presumably still need fielding by someone going forward.
“We need complete transparency and openness by the company, as well as certainty that every possible effort is being made to find new roles for those displaced individuals who don’t want to take redundancy on full BT terms, which we ensured were fully protected in the TUPE.
“This is especially important given the fact that what is happening is being keenly watched by around 200 further EE Consumer people who already know they are in line to be TUPE’d into WBD at some time in the future. These include people conducting commercial roles like selling BT Sport to pubs and clubs
“It’s not rocket science to imagine what they are thinking right now,” Dave concludes.
Members directly impacted by the redundancy announcement should check their email inboxes for their invitation to tomorrow’s (Friday) members’ online meeting, which will kick off at 9am sharp.