New outrage enflames BT Enterprise compulsory redundancy drama

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT


Hot on the heels of a remarkable explosion of workforce anger in Sevenoaks at BT Enterprise’s apparent determination become the first part of BT Group to make compulsory redundancies amongst team member grades, a new bushfire is taking hold in London.

Just days after South East Central branch members registered their disgust at the division’s decision to target a long-serving female engineer with the first ever compulsory redundancy notice by voting to be balloted for industrial action (see story here) eight further Enterprise employees at based at Ambassador House in Paddington were delivered the bombshell that they will be forcibly exited even sooner!

While the Brighton-based homeworker whose treatment sparked the South East Central Branch industrial action ballot request has been given a final day of service of May 31 – at least holding out a kernel of hope that frenzied CWU efforts to identify  a redeployment solution may bear fruit – the Ambassador House contingent has been told their last day has been fast-tracked to March 31.

“Even before they’d received formal notification of compulsory, on Monday March 2 the individuals were informed that their last day of service would be March 31 – meaning that they’ve effectively only been given 22 working days’ notice that they’ll be out the door under compulsory redundancy at the end of the month,” points out CWU assistant Allan Eldred.

“We’ve expressed the CWU’s complete horror at this development, but management have responded by saying that it was always their plan to end Enterprise’s presence at Ambassador House on March 31 –  and that their obligations to these employees  will have been fulfilled by paying them three months’ Pay In Lieu of Notice (PILON) on that day.

“That may be true in a very narrow legal sense but it is still absolutely immoral – because all of these individuals are desperate that no stone is left unturned in a search for suitable redeployment opportunities that would allow them to stay in BT.

“In effect this brutal decision by Enterprise to fast-track compulsory redundancies – rather than even offering these individuals the opportunity to serve out their notice in another BT building – is denying them the chance to find other work. By my book that’s piling insult on injury!”

CWU dismay at Enterprises’ behaviour is heightened by the crass inflexibility that has been shown by management over counter-proposals tabled by the union to try to find workable solutions for the minority of Enterprises’ formerly near 30-strong presence at Ambassador House who have not opted to take voluntary leaver payments.

The CWU’s Capital Branch which represents four of the group – all of whom are agile workers in ‘order management’ and who only report to Ambassador House one day a week – has persistently argued that consideration should be given to allowing the individuals to be based at another London site on that day.

“Westminster ATE is in the company’s own documentation as a potential receiving site,” explains Capital Branch chair Tony Gilkes, “but they’ve always declined that suggestion and never given a reason why.

“Instead the individuals have been told they could go to Hatfield for three days a week – but that’s outside of reasonable travelling time by quite a long way. For one of the group it would mean two-and-a-half hours travelling time each way – In effect adding another day to his working week in travel time alone!

“Despite that, they’ve all offered to go to Hatfield on one day week, as per their current terms – but management is still adamant that it wants three days, which is obviously completely unsustainable.”

Devastating indictment…

Capital Branch’s assessment of the way Enterprise management is handling the Ambassador House situation is nothing less than devastating.

“Our members are being treated abysmally, and this is no longer simply about a reduction of staff. It’s fundamentally a site strategy now, bearing in mind that the individuals in question are only based in Ambassador House one day a week,” continues Tony Gilkes.

“What’s happening is absolutely appalling and our members are devastated. They just don’t know where their future lies, and this is leading to difficult and painful conversations with the branch which is doing everything it can to try to achieve a sensible outcome, but not getting anywhere at the moment.”

National officer for Enterprise Allan Eldred cautions that the division is playing with fire in the way it is disregarding long established agreements and protocols that have formed the foundation of good industrial relations in BT for decades.

“The tragedy is that the current dreadful situation unfolding in Enterprise is utterly needless, because it is completely surmountable under the existing redeployment process,” he stresses.

“What’s happening now at Ambassador House – in the immediate aftermath of the powerful demonstration of grassroots dismay at Sevenoaks – will further anger of our members at an already difficult and dangerous time.”