Grim anniversary of redundancy announcement that “changed everything” in BT

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Friday 23rd October 2020

It was a year ago this week that BT Enterprise announced hundreds of job losses in that division – triggering a bitterly disputed redundancy process and providing, in retrospect, a bitter early foretaste of a fundamentally changed management approach that is now wreaking havoc across BT Group.

On the day of the announcement – Thursday October 19, 2019 – the CWU pointedly warned the company it would be placing more than 30 years of industrial harmony in jeopardy if it shifted away from the principle  of voluntarism in job loss situations that had underpinned decades of workplace peace across BT Group.

Urging bosses not to trigger a needless industrial relations crisis, the CWU was adamant from the outset that the tried and tested ways of addressing staff surplus situations – under which  tens of thousands left BT in the years after privatisation without the need for a single compulsory – could easily work again, especially given the considerably smaller numbers involved.

What wasn’t immediately apparent at the time, however, was the extent to which a new senior management team was determined to re-write the ‘rulebook’ that has governed the way BT has behaved in successive job loss situations since the 1987 national strike.

Inexplicably hell bent on sweeping away enlightened resourcing practices that have served both the company and employees well for decades, management has moved with zeal in different divisions to needlessly introduce compulsion in redundancy situations as a matter of warped principle.

CWU members in Enterprise, however, were the very first team member grade employees in BT to experience that ugly new reality, which is now manifesting itself in Technology, Global and Group Functions.

At the end of May, despite desperate eleventh hour appeals by the CWU for clemency, a Brighton-based Enterprise homeworker became the first ever team member grade to be made compulsorily redundant.

Unlucky enough to have been ‘badged’ to an office  that Enterprise was  closing, the fact that she seldom, if ever, visited that location was deemed ‘irrelevant’ by  management when challenged by the union. The CWU has branded the company’s actions as nothing less than ‘redundancy by postcode’.

                             Allan Eldred

Then, at the end of August, 28 more compulsory redundancies concluded Enterprise’s ‘phase one’ job cuts. In itself that number – compared to the 367 who were put ‘in scope’ last October (even though management had always indicated the final figure for the initial jobs cull would be about 250)  – demonstrated that any serious effort to by management to follow time-honoured redeployment and reskilling protocols could easily have resulted in those not wishing to leave under VR being absorbed elsewhere in a business the size of BT.

CWU national officer for Enterprise, Allan Eldred, stresses, however, that fewer of those leaving Enterprise on VR packages were truly leaving ‘voluntarily’ than the numbers initially imply.  Once  it was clear that management was determined to claim CR scalps as a matter of principle – often going out their way to block potential avenues for redeployment –  some of those who would have far preferred to stay understandably jumped before they were pushed.

With further resourcing announcements already known to be imminent in other parts on Enterprise, on Monday this week a special bulletin charting 12 grim months that have “changed everything” was sent to all members in the division.

Within it, Allan urges maximum participation in the CWU’s Count Me In campaign fightback – unveiling CWU plans to give members the opportunity to publicly assess the performance of the senior managers who have made the last year so hellish.

“The irony, of course, is that those responsible for these attacks are the very same people who have presided over  a company which has seen its share price halve in 12 months to a point where it is now lower than when BT was first privatised in 1984!” he points out.

“In the next few weeks we are going to invite you to give your assessment of the senior people who either supported these attacks or meekly nodded when they were told what to do.

“It’s now crucial that everybody counts themselves in to the union’s campaign and starts fighting back!”

A special video explaining why Enterprise members have good reason to be at the forefront of the Count Me In fightback can be viewed below:

The CWU is the trade union recognised to negotiate for team member grade employees across BT Group. The more members we have the more influence and success we will have. If any of your friends or colleagues are not members of the CWU, please share this news story with them and encourage them to join us by contacting your local CWU rep or CWU branch. Alternatively, they can join us online here