New ‘Better Workplace’ site closure plans emerge in BT Group Business ServicesTelecoms & Financial Services, BT July 2 2020
Mounting job security fears across BT Group have been further exacerbated following the announcement by Group Business Services (GBS) of radical site rationalisation proposals.
At present GBS – which includes Contract Delivery Services, Group Customer Billing, Group Business Assurance and Process Excellence & Automation – employs just under 500 team member grade employees spread across around 50 UK sites. Under its ‘Better Workplace’ site rationalisation plans, however, the division’s footprint will reduce to just six key locations plus a handful of specialist sites.
In total around 40 existing GBS sites – including Crawley, Reading and Sevenoaks, each of which currently house more than 20 GBS team member grade employees – are not listed as ‘future locations’ under management’s site rationalisation blueprint.
As such, a sizeable percentage of GBS’s current UK workforce will displaced by the time the division’s ‘Better Workplace’ programme is completed in March 2024. By contrast, GBS’s much larger offshore workforce is unaffected by the shake-up.
By 2024 GBS intends to have ‘core operations’ in the UK based in Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester with other ‘key sites’ in London, Darlington and Newcastle.
Separate sites covering specific functions will remain open in Ipswich and Derry; a small presence will be retained at BT’s London head office and operations will continue in Darlington and Newcastle where teams are co-located with colleagues in the call centres.
However, with details yet to emerge as to exactly what work will be conducted in each of the surviving sites, CWU assistant secretary Nigel Cotgrove cautions against simplistic assumptions that anyone currently based in the named ‘future locations’ will be unaffected.
“Even if you are working in one of the sites named in the plan it is not clear what work will be in those sites,” he stresses. “Everyone is facing a very uncertain future, while GBS intends keeping thousands of jobs offshore.”
Nigel continues: “Already it’s clear that Group Customer Billing do not want to maintain a site in Crawley, which is the largest site not mentioned in any company communications.
“At this point in time we’re not even clear whether this is a proposed GBS withdrawal from the site, or whether the site will close completely.”
Similar question marks hang over the GBS work currently conducted at the Reading ATE and Sevenoaks Workstyle sites, the latter of which is currently witnessing the spectre of compulsory redundancies in Enterprise. Though both Reading and Sevenoaks, like Crawley, do not apparently feature in GBS’s future, at present the division is not yet ready to commence consultation over their future.
BT Group-wide issue
The already concerning redeployment challenge emerging in GBS is exacerbated by the act that the division’s ‘Better Workplace’ programme is not happening in isolation
Just last week Openreach announced a new location strategy which unleashes a full-frontal assault on the division’s desk-based workers nationwide. Only days later the seriousness of potential job threats stemming from BT Technology’s ongoing transformation programme – amplified by that division’s own ‘Better Workplace’ site cull – were laid bare to reps attending a special online forum. (See report here)
The fact that other BT lines of business look set to be facing their own massive redeployment challenges at precisely the time when displaced GBS members (and vice versa) will be seeking redeployment already looks set to make a bad problem worse – further exacerbated by the fact that the staggered ‘Better Workplace’ announcements by different CFUs mean that, as yet, there is no definitive picture of what BT work will ultimately remain in any geographical location.
“We’ve asked BT to set out its overall plans for sites in the different regions impacted, so that members can be fully aware of the whole picture – but astonishingly we’ve been advised that there is no overall plan,” cautions Nigel.
“Despite ‘Better Workplace’ being a major project championed by the most senior management in the company, the various CFUs are seemingly being allowed to move ahead already without proper co-ordination. Frankly the lack of co-ordination and clarity on this is shameful and totally unfair to everyone impacted.
“Against this difficult backdrop, members in GBS can rest assured that the CWU will be doing all we can to keep as many jobs as possible in GBS in the UK. We will be lobbying hard for the onshoring of work, the maximising of redeployment opportunities for displaced staff across BT and we will be opposing compulsory redundancies.
Nigel concludes “Right across BT attacks are taking place on pay, grading, resourcing and now locations – tellingly at a time when the business is also moving to attack redundancy terms. The attitude of BT has fundamentally changed.
“There’s never been a more important time to be in the CWU, because we all need to stand together to fight for job security and to defend hard won terms & conditions.”