Fightback over ‘needless’ CR threat in BT Group Functions underway amid growing staff fury

BT Circle
Friday 25th September 2020

Members targeted for compulsory redundancy in BT Group Functions have poignantly told of their shock, horror and deep sense of hurt at the way they are being treated by the company as the union steps up its efforts to persuade management to reconsider its needlessly brutal approach to a tiny staff surplus.

Amid general  disbelief that a division that employs well over 11,000 has moved straight to a compulsory redundancy (CR) process to achieve just  24 job losses, the CWU has been forcefully reminding the company at every opportunity  of its legal obligations to ‘avoid, reduce and mitigate ’ compulsory  redundancies wherever possible – but so far those appeals are falling on deaf years.

With comprehensive CWU counter-proposals that the union is convinced could secure the company’s desired headcount reduction through entirely voluntary means already knocked back by management, the CWU has this week lodged a registered disagreement with the company in another effort to focus management’s attention on the needlessness of its current brutal approach.

“We’ve challenged the company in a formal way about its application, or rather non- application, of collective agreements between us – notably the NewGRID Agreement and the 2018 Pensions Agreement which has which has a built in redundancy annexe which specifically sets out how the company should be reducing, mitigating and even preventing compulsory redundancies,” explained CWU assistant secretary Dave Jukes in special online members meeting held on Wednesday evening.

“So far the company has chosen to ignore the parts of that agreement that cover how it should deal with displaced people by looking at new roles, removing agency, onshoring work, and all of the other things we’ve done in the past to ensure voluntarism in job loss situations.

“I make no bones about the fact that this is a very serious situation,” the national officer for BT Group Functions stressed.

“We’ve urged the company to expand the selection pools and to offer voluntary release with a payment, challenging senior managers that we could sort this out in two weeks if only they would do that, but unfortunately they are still not bending at this point in time.”

Widespread employee recognition of the alarming significance of Group Functions’ management’s current stance – especially in the light of a belligerent new management approach sweeping across wider-BT,  which has already seen compulsory redundancies in BT Enterprise, with more likely to follow in Technology imminently  – was reflected in  the genuine shock and disgust expressed by members during the webinar.

One in-scope member told of his astonishment at being asked  to help train up an outside service provider that has been lined up to provide the function he currently conducts providing digital support for vulnerable members of the community.

Explaining his overwhelming sense of hypocrisy when hearing senior managers preaching about the values of the ‘BT Family’ and the socially important work being  conducted by the company in tackling digital exclusion he said: “I love working for BT but I now realise what the EIN means now: It means we’re all just numbers. I’ve never previously thought about BT that way, but 100 percent that’s the way I’m feeling just now. I’m just shocked by it, as I’d never previously thought that BT would behave in this manner.”

                                      Dave Jukes

Referring to the looming November 30th deadline for those selected for CR to have identified, applied for and secured alternative roles within BT without any real help from the company another member observed: “Obviously there’s no great time of the year to be made redundant or to receive this news, but it’s very hard at this particular time, especially when there’s hardly any jobs being advertised out there.”

Another member who’s been earmarked for possible CR contrasted BT’s public pronouncements on priding itself in being an ‘inclusive employer’  when, as a part-time homeworker with disabilities herself, she’s staring the spectre of possible compulsory redundancy in the face.

Responding to those observations, and many others like them, Dave Jukes agreed that the inconsistency between BT’s “corporate window-dressing” and its current treatment of employees is jaw-dropping.

“What’s come out of this, in the background information we’ve received from management about what they say is a carefully ‘targeted’ redundancy exercise, is that all of the part-timers are women and one is a lady with a disability. This is an outrageous attack not only on part-timers but also on women and people with disabilities.

“The company has thought about what they are doing and who it impacts… but they are still doing it!”

On the wider issue of the emerging chasm between the ‘cuddly’ public image that BT attempts to project and its actions in the current redundancy situation, Dave continued: “Ultimately it comes down the hypocrisy of the people who are running the company at this moment in time.

“They say one thing and do another and hope it doesn’t get out – but I can tell them it will if they persist in their current actions, because the CWU will ensure it does!

“They talk about the ‘BT Family’, but you don’t treat your family members like this company is doing at present.”

Lamenting the fact that the current leadership of a great company that for decades has been at the forefront of enlightened employment practice are currently behaving like a “ bunch of chancers”, Dave concluded: “These people need to be stopped, and that’s why it’s so important that CWU members across BT Group really get involved in the Count Me In campaign.

  • A national Count Me In campaign Day of Action will take place on October 1, and members are being urged to participate in whatever way they can to send the clearest possible expression of employee anger to BT’s top brass. (See story here)

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