‘Count Me In’ fightback steps into full gear as BT moves to attack severance terms

Telecoms & Financial Services

Tuesday 29th September 2020

BT has fired its latest broadside on employees’ hard won job security and industry-leading terms and conditions, launching a direct attack on team member redundancy terms.

In the latest display of a belligerent new management approach which is sweeping across the whole of BT Group – but manifesting itself in different ways in individual lines of business – the company’s most recent assault on employees’ rights is truly pan-BT in its implications.

Yesterday (Monday) the company announced a month-long company-wide ‘consultation’ on contractual redundancy and paid leaver terms for all of its UK employees, claiming the current arrangements are ‘too complex, inconsistent and therefore unfair’.

Already it’s clear, however, that the real intention is to slash the redundancy terms that apply across much of the company – with BT’s aim being to effectively halve maximum redundancy entitlements for longer -serving employees from two years’ to one year’s money,

The whirlwind  ‘consultation’ – which will run from now until October 31 – follows the company’s provocative decision this May to serve notice on 2018 Pensions Agreement which contains a legally binding annexe, included at the insistence of the CWU,  that sets out the company’s responsibilities to team member grade employees in any redundancy situation.

Already the union has been struggling to get BT to adhere to the true spirit of a set of commitments on how the company should work jointly with the CWU to resolve staff surpluses through a combination of redeployment, insourcing of previously offshored or contracted out work, agency displacement and the offering of enhanced voluntary leaver packages – as initially witnessed in Enterprise, and now in Technology and Group Functions

But, in launching this latest ‘consultation’, BT is now going for the jugular of one part of the agreement it has so far been unable to welch on – namely the comparatively generous redundancy terms that apply to the vast majority of its UK employees.

By law, those terms remain sacrosanct until the Pensions Agreement expires at the start of June next year – but yesterday the CWU issued a stark message to its entire BT Group membership over what is  at stake after then.

Urging members to respond en-masse to the consultation – unequivocally setting out their views on what is being proposed – deputy general secretary Andy Kerr pointed out that the company’s move on redundancy terms “comes in the wake of other unagreed changes to future Ts&Cs, compulsory redundancies in various CFUs, offshoring of work to India and the Better Workplace site closure programme which will displace thousands of jobs in the future.”

He continued: “Whilst BT may wish to ‘harmonise’ the current arrangements, let’s be clear what this will mean for many of you.

                             Andy Kerr

“This is a cynical move to implement reductions to redundancy pay in order to make it easier for them to carry out their reorganisation of the business.

“This has not been agreed with the CWU – BT are intending to impose these plans – and we are rejecting the new terms being offered.”

One particularly pernicious part of BT’s current proposals is that those who are put ‘at risk’ of redundancy will effectively be forced into accepting misleadingly named ‘voluntary redundancy terms’, as compulsory redundancy terms will no longer be enhanced but will be the bare statutory minimum.

By doing this BT will have the ability to state publicly that it is not making anyone compulsorily redundant,” Andy explains – stressing that any notion of true ‘voluntarism’ will have been comprehensively trounced because anyone not accepting ‘VR’ without a murmur will be hugely financially penalised.

At present the company’s proposal is also entirely silent on whether or not any allowances, barring London Weighting, will apply to the new severance terms – potentially representing another  significant but not immediately obvious loss for those facing redundancy after June 1 next year.

“BT need to hear the views of its employees,” concludes Andy. “Therefore your participation in this consultation is vital, and we encourage you to respond by 31st October 2020.”


Fighting back this Thursday…

Yesterday’s bombshell from BT on redundancy terms has given added impetus to the CWU’s first pan-BT day of action in decades which will take place this coming Thursday (October 1).

The national ‘Count Me In’ campaign day of protest signals a significant ramping up of the union’s fightback against an unprecedented change of management ethos which is putting more than three decades of industrial peace at risk – despite every possible effort being made by the CWU to persuade BT to change tack and return to the partnership approach which has served the company and its employees well since the national strike of 1987.

Widespread participation in the National Day of Action is confidently expected, with large numbers of eye-catching events being organised by local CWU branches and regional campaign hubs the length and breadth of the country following an impassioned video address by deputy general secretary to the union’s entire BT membership on September 18. (See video and story here)

Enthusiastic pledges of support and practical assistance in Thursday’s activities have been received from across the CWU, with the forthcoming day of action taking centre stage yesterday  (Monday)on  day one of the union’s Online Engagement Festival (See story here)

Support for the CWU fightback also extends to BT manager’s union Prospect which is itself grappling with the unprecedented attacks being made by  BT’s top brass. Last Friday the CWU and Prospect joined forces in warning the company that “Enough is Enough”  in a joint statement that  pledges a united stance against  imposed changes that are detrimental to members wherever possible.

“We reject the aggressive and provocative approach of BT in tearing up contractual redundancy agreements that were reached only two years ago and put in place following the closure of the BT Pension Scheme,” the joint statement reads.

“We reject an approach that favours imposition over negotiation – and we reject a location strategy that ignores where our members are currently based, removes BT from huge swathes of the country, and is completely contrary to both the public health and environmental agenda that the company is signed up to.”

Watch out for information from your branch about Count Me In activities taking place in your locality on October 1.