Conference votes to ballot for action at BT, Openreach & EE

Telecoms & Financial Services

T&FS Conference voted today to serve legal notice to BT Group of the union’s intention to ballot all appropriate members for industrial action as soon as possible, after rejecting BT Group’s ‘final offer’ of a £1,500 flat rate pay rise.

Delegates deemed this an insult to members struggling with a spiralling cost-of-living crisis from a company that had made £5.7 billion in profit in 2021, and the motion expressed how “appalled” members were by the failure to “adequately reward the contribution made by CWU members keeping the country connected during the pandemic.”

CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr said: “BT Group’s decision is not about affordability, no matter what they say.

“They’re making massive profits, and the workers who create that profit for them are in serious need of a massive pay rise.

“In this climate, where the cost of everything is skyrocketing, nobody could expect our key worker members to sit back and expect such insulting treatment.

“These people have no integrity in my view – absolutely none. This is their choice. We’re going to ballot, we’ll have a big campaign, and we’ll talk about it after the debate.

“We won’t wait for the jam tomorrow – we want it today.”

Mick Bagnall, Central Counties & Thames Valley, asked conference: “How many times are you going to let this company kick you before you kick back?

“The answer, this time, has to be no more.

“You kept this country going – you deserve more. You deserve recognition. We don’t get what we deserve, we get what we fight for.”

Jonathan Bellshaw, from Lincolnshire & South Yorkshire, said: “What this comes down to is morals – and I tell you now, Philip Jansen and co have none of them.

“They’re not discussing terms and conditions – they’re imposing it. And when they’re imposing it, they’re bullying. And I’m quite happy to call them bullies.

“It’s time for us to stand up to them and fight back. Where I was brought up in the East End of Glasgow, if you’re a bully you get a pasting. Well, this is our time to give them a pasting.”


In a barnstorming speech, Tyne & Wear Clerical’s Miranda Stevenson ‘thanked’ BT for a litany of reasons: “We thank you for yesterday reminding us we are the foundation of your business.

“We thank you for not giving us a pay rise last year, and for ignoring the cost-of-living crisis we’re currently speeding into and for putting our BT bills up 9.3% and pushing our members into poverty.

“We thank you for doing food bank collections for our call centres – which our members are not needing to use.”


But crucially, she also ‘thanked’ BT for forcing the union to get on the front foot, to improve our membership records, our communications, and doing more for our campaign than we could have ever done on our own.

“We thank you for our over 400 new members to date this year.

“One last thank you – we thank you for pushing us to this point.”


Additionally, general secretary Dave Ward said: “The balance of forces impacting workers across the economy is rigged against working people, and it has to change.

“There is no other group that is going to come to the rescue of our members and stand up for our members. That is ultimately the job of trade unions.

“You could not have made a better decision than to take BT on, take EE on, to take Openreach on, and to take VMO2 on.

“Every time you pick up a paper, you listen to the radio, watch something on TV, there is an imbalance of power and wealth driving our members into poverty.

“We have tremendous power and strength – and we have great members of this union.”


Delegates were then shown a strategy of how to fight for a legally binding ‘YES’ vote in an upcoming ballot, with CWU head of comms Chris Webb summarising the strategy as: “it’s not about what they do, it’s about what we do – and we’re going to turn them over.”


Opposing compulsory redundancies and defending members

Delegates voted for the union to “react in the strongest possible way” to BT’s Supply Chain announcement from earlier this month, and to resist the compulsory redundancies that may take place among the Supply Chain Forward Stock Location Network (FSL) in favour of strictly voluntary ones.

Chris Power, from South East Central Branch, said that “members will be told that if they don’t accept enhanced BT Group’s voluntary terms, it will move to compulsory terms, which are much less financially supportive – half as much, in most cases.

“Members don’t have much choice but to take the voluntary package. It’s a fake voluntary scenario – not all members want to leave the business, they are being bullied out from a financial perspective. Where will it end?

“Let’s get to business round the table. We should be thrashing out a better, not fake, voluntary way of leaving the company, opposing voluntary redundancies, particularly the fake ones.”

North East Branch delegate Peter Sharrocks agreed, saying that “what started as a little exercise to get rid of FSLs in Scotland will now apply to the rest of the country.

“We need to do what we can before the rest of the FSLs are no longer there, and we know it won’t just stop here, it’ll hit all supply chains.”

There was also united expressions of anger and anxiety over BT’s mass TUPE of BT Consumer employees into EE.

Quincy Raymond, of Tyne & Wear Clerical, said: “BT are in a race to the bottom. They’ve closed sites, they’ve worsened terms and conditions, forced redundancies, failed to provide a decent pay offer. And now, TUPE’d Consumer into EE.

“BT cannot be trusted – plain and simple. We need to carry this motion to let our members know that whilst BT will let them down, we will not.”

National officer Tracey Fussey said: “We need proper dialogue with the company, and we are trying to get the company to what this agreement will look like.

“This is about transparent discussions at the earliest possible opportunity on issues like this week.

“When we once had prior knowledge and further dialogue going back months and years, we could have had real dialogue with to help our members, not three days before TUPE actually takes place.

“It’s about the company trusting us as partners to bring that change.”