Assurances sought on BT’s new ‘Colleague Board’


The CWU is seeking confirmation that BT’s decision to create a new ‘Colleague Board’ won’t impact in any way on the company’s current relationship and communication flows with employees’ democratically elected union representatives

On Monday the business announced it was seeking nominations from 11 employees from across the business (including BT, EE, Plusnet and Openreach) to make up the body which is due to meet four times a year, starting in January 2020.

BT claims that the Colleague Board is designed to “build a clear and strong bridge between colleagues and the most senior leaders in the business, allowing colleagues to raise issues that matter through the board” – but the CWU remains unconvinced there is a need for such a body.

Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr explains: “It’s our view that BT already does this through the existing structured and constructive relationships with its recognised trade unions – namely the CWU and Prospect.

“I’ve therefore written to the business to inform them that, although the CWU is not opposing the creation of a ‘Colleague Board’ we cannot be supportive at this time, and feel it is unnecessary.”

While the union is currently of the view that the development is a harmless exercise in corporate governance – albeit one of questionable value – specific clarification has been sought by the CWU to establish beyond doubt that:

  • Nothing in the announcement changes, dilutes of diminishes BT Group’s relationship with the CWU
  • The Colleague Board will never be used as the vehicle for the company to exercise its obligations in relation to any statutory consultation

Andy continues: “We’re also seeking details on how the company plans to deal with any matter which is tabled, or brought up by a colleague board member, which inadvertently strays into an area or subject matter proper to collective bargaining with the CWU.

“As things stand, I’m confident that BT won’t have an issue giving us the assurances we are seeking – and, in which case, the CWU’s position on the Colleague Board will essentially be one of ambivalence.

“Members and branches can rest assured, however, that we are monitoring this closely and will respond robustly if required.”