High stakes in EE as consultative ballot on industrial action reaches its mid-point

EE, Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Tuesday 2nd December 2020

Hard won gains for members  in EE since recognition will be placed  in jeopardy and even could go into reverse unless CWU members across BT Group stand united against  classic ‘divide and rule’ tactics by a new senior management team that is hell bent on imposing a company-wide ‘race to the bottom’.

That’s the stark warning that has been issued to members at EE’s six UK call centres amid disturbing indications that some managers are spreading misinformation and even veiled threats of disciplinary measures in an attempt to stop members from participating in the CWU’s BT Group-wide consultative ballot on industrial action.

With that ballot now mid-way through its second week – leaving members with ten more days to cast their vote – the union has moved decisively to reassure members across BT Group that the ballot is entirely confidential and that the union will take the strongest possible action against any instances of illegal management intimidation.

That reassurance has a particular resonance  within EE, where union recognition was only secured in 2019 and where many members can still remember the overtly anti-union stance formerly taken by many managers –especially those in the parts of the company that were formerly part of T-Mobile.

Although much has changed for the better in EE since then – with this year’s above inflation negotiated pay settlement providing tangible proof of the value of workers having a collective voice in negotiations with management – acting national officer for EE, Stephen Albon, warns that such gains cannot be taken for granted in the context of an aggressive new management approach that is sweeping across all parts of BT Group.

Pictured above: Tracy Buckley, Stephen Albon, Gemma Hughes, Dave Tee

Pointing out that the union’s first significant step towards upwardly harmonising  the terms and conditions of members in EE is now being challenged by management’s direct assault on the generally better Ts&Cs in BT Consumer, Stephen stresses that members in EE have everything to gain by standing  united with their BT colleagues against an unholy ‘ race to the bottom’.

“For the first time you have recognition and a voice – and you saw what that voice can achieve in the form of pay deal the national team was able to secure on your behalf,” Stephen explained in a special Facebook Live broadcast last Thursday, “Now, however, the terms and conditions we are wanting to harmonise you to are things that are now being attacked in BT.

“Management is  trying to stop the union having a voice in BT, and that is also an attack on the voice you’ve just gained in EE.

“That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that we all unite around the ‘Count Me In’ campaign and deliver a massive ’Yes’ vote in the consultative ballot. We need to send a really strong message to BT that we’re not going to accept this.”


‘Better Workplace’ – or no workplace?

Another massive concern of the CWU’s EE national team concerns EE’s refusal to come clean on its short to medium term site strategy – a stance that is being mirrored on the BT side of an ever more integrated Consumer division.

Consumer is now the only BT Group division to have remained utterly silent on how its short to medium term site strategy fits in with the Group-wide Better Workplace Programme, under which BT intends consolidating hundreds of sites into just 30 key locations over the next four years.

Yet even in the wake of the ‘short notice’ closure of the  Aberdeen contact centre earlier this month – resulting in the mass displacement t of staff and a significant number of redundancies, some of them compulsory  – the CWU is being accused of  ‘scaremongering’ by some local managers for even posing the  question as to what the future holds.

“Other lines of business are being very clear as to where they’re going to be in the future, but Consumer  is refusing to tell us its  it plans for either EE or BT contact centres, and you have to ask why?” stresses Telecoms Executive and EE national team member Dave Tee.

“We want to work with the company to deal with these issues – not to have them spring them on us at the last minute, as they did in Aberdeen. Saying we’re ‘scaremongering’ is just a management tactic to try to stop people from voting in the ballot.”

Reinforcing the importance of mass participation in that ballot, EE national team member Gemma Hughes – herself a rep at the company’s Merthyr Tydfil site – has a simple message for members throughout EE: “The CWU is going to continue to fight your corner, but you need to play your part too – and that involves getting a massive yes vote in the consultative ballot,” she concludes.

  • View the EE Facebook Live session here