Compulsory redundancies in BT Group Functions reinforce importance of CWU fightback

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Wednesday 25th November 2020

The first ever compulsory redundancies of team member grade employees in BT Group Functions are now in the process of reaching their sad conclusions – reinforcing once again the importance of the consultative ballot on industrial action that is underway across BT Group.

Nearly a week after that crucial vote commenced last Thursday (see story here) the latest demonstration of an aggressive new management approach sweeping across BT Group follows hot on the heels of earlier compulsory redundancy exercises in Enterprise, and Technology and Global, the latter two of which are still ongoing, with dozens more due to be forcibly exited in the coming weeks and months.

The accelerating staff cull underlines the ideological rejection by a new senior management team of time-honoured and mutually agreed mechanisms for dealing with staff surpluses with which the CWU has fully co-operated for decades. In the decades following privatisation BT reduced its headcount by tens of thousands without the need for a single compulsory redundancy thanks to an enlightened approach based on voluntarism, redeployment and reskilling.

But with the grim spectre of compulsory redundancies now spreading into a fourth BT line of business, an ever growing number of members are counting the cost of betrayal by company that is refusing to even contemplate less vicious ways of addressing comparatively tiny staff surpluses.

It was just over  two months ago, on September 17, that the CWU was informed that Group Functions was commencing a compulsory redundancy consultation in four separate business units with the view to securing a total headcount reduction of just 24.

Amid disbelief that a line of business that employs well over 11,000 had moved straight to a CR process to achieve only 10 job losses in Corporate Affairs, eight in Group Finance, four in Human Resources (involving redeployees) and just two in Legal Regulatory Affairs, the CWU immediately lodged a formal disagreement – pointing out the ludicrousness of the company moving direct to a formal redundancy process without even offering voluntary leaver packages first.

Subsequently another group of three individuals from the seven-strong Events Team were added to the ‘at risk’ tally –the announcement delayed until just after the members in question had successfully delivered a massive online Consumer Live event.

Then, on October 29, the union was informed by Group Functions that five further CWU members in BT Procurement are at risk of compulsory redundancy in separate consultation exercise as a direct result of the cost-cutting offshoring of their work to Dublin.

To date, ALL CWU counter-proposals have been rejected by management – and following last month’s dismissal by management of formal disagreement lodged by the union, this week Group Functions management has attempted to draw the initial ‘consultation’ process to a close– something that is being hotly contested on members’ behalf.

                                          Dave Jukes

CWU national officer for BT Group Functions Dave Jukes explains: “We’ve made it plain to management that their failure to answer legitimate questions over the clear potential for voluntarism in this job loss situation means we don’t accept consultation is over.

“The small numbers involved  reinforces the needlessness of  the brutal path management is pursuing  with total disregard for loyal employees who have worked through the pandemic to keep the country connected and are now being rewarded with P45s.

“It may be beyond the comprehension of a management mindset that has clearly lost its moral compass, but real people’s lives are at stake. As things stand, senior management have now even stopped attending the national consultations – citing the fact they have ’other work to do’.

Dave continues: “In Group Functions a significant number of the members in scope are part-timers, all of whom are women. Some have disabilities and others have caring responsibilities, which raises serious questions as to whether these people have been singled out for redundancy by a company which clearly knows what it is doing because it has repeatedly told us these redundancies are ‘targeted’.

“Moreover, we’ve had cases escalated to us involving members being asked into individual consultation meetings without even being advised they have a right to be represented by their trade union.”

Stressing the importance of all members across BT Group casting their vote in the consultative ballot that is underway, Dave points out that the mass staff displacement that will result from the so-called Better Workplace site closure programme has barely even started.

“These redundancies are only the beginning,” he insists.  “This dreadful situation will not end until we fight back. We can only change the situation by confronting the company and making it absolutely clear that the CWU will not allow them to continue treating employees in this brutal and arrogant way.

“It’s vital members vote ‘YES’ en-masse in the consultative ballot that is now taking place.”