Radical Labour pledge to transform broadband provision

Telecoms & Financial Services

The CWU has warmly welcomed Labour’s pledge roll out a publicly owned full fibre broadband network to every address across the country within a decade.

Under last night’s major policy announcement by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, an incoming Labour Government would re-nationalise the relevant parts of BT to deliver the plan – which also involves the free provision of  high-speed internet access to every home and business in the country.

Designed address slow and patchy internet connections that are hampering economic growth and creating a dangerous digital divide in which rural and deprived areas are affected especially badly, the radical policy would represent a massive step towards ending digital exclusion while simultaneously saving the average family around £30 a month.

Pledging the scheme would give every single address in the country access to free high quality WIFI by 2030, John McDonnell stressed that ongoing running costs of around £230 million a year would be covered  by a new tax on multinationals – including internet giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google – which have long used labyrinthine tax loopholes to avoid paying their fair share.

Bringing BT back into public ownership is a longstanding policy of the CWU that has been reaffirmed by the union’s Annual Conference on many occasions – and the union has also been a key exponent of the need for big tech multinationals to pay a rate of tax that fairly reflects their profits in any given country.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said: “This is a significant announcement which would deliver major benefits for CWU members working in the industry if Labour is elected, and we have been working closely with Labour to shape the proposals in recent weeks.

“In terms of detail, Labour would bring Openreach and other parts of BT that are relevant to broadband – including parts of BT Technology, BT Consumer and BT Enterprise – into public ownership to form a new public body, British Broadband.”

Crucially, the union has secured a number of important safeguards for CWU members who would be affected. These include commitments that:


  • Anyone transferring from BT to British Broadband will TUPE over with a guarantee on all terms and conditions
  • All pensions would be safeguarded or improved, with a commitment to maintain the Crown guarantee on the BTPS
  • The use of agency work to undercut permanent staff would end, with contracted workers being insourced;
  • Health and safety standards would be improved through engagement with frontline staff;
  • All existing industrial agreements would be honoured, meaning the threat of compulsory redundancy would be removed
  • Collective bargaining would be at the heart of decision-making and the union will make positive harmonisation of terms and conditions a priority;
  • Employee shareholdings would be dealt with under TUPE and no-one will be worse off, and…
  • There would be massive investment in the organisation with profits being kept and re-invested in it.

Dave continues: “If Labour is elected we would be sitting down with it as the new Government to work out and shape the final details but the above pledges we have already secured are significant wins for our members and demonstrate how the proposals would deliver for them.

“For CWU members in other operators such as Virgin we are also working with Labour to ensure that jobs in the industry as a whole are protected and we believe the final plans will benefit all telecoms workers. For our members in parts of BT like EE that are not directly covered by the plans, we would continue to work to protect and enhance their terms and conditions, and we believe the wider impact of the proposals will be to raise the floor across the industry.”

Commending Labour for its “hugely ambitious proposals that will have major economic benefits for the country,” deputy general secretary Andy Kerr continues: “Labour’s plan puts broadband at the heart of the debate about public service provision and the way businesses and the economy are run.

“Creating a single network operator will enable a more efficient and inclusive rollout of universal broadband, avoiding network duplication and cherry picking by operators who are only interested in serving the most profitable areas.

“It will enable cross-subsidies to help fund high quality universal access to broadband services in harder to reach areas.  As the national operator will be publicly owned, the profits it generates will be reinvested back into the service instead of being paid out to private shareholders.

“The rollout of full fibre across the UK also offers wider social and economic benefits, including reduced carbon emissions and higher productivity.  A recent report for Openreach found that offering full fibre nationwide could allow 400,000 more people to work from home, helping them to avoid the commute and allowing greater choice about where they live.  It could also boost UK productivity by £59bn based on deployment by 2025, and could help to bring half a million people back into the workforce by 2038.”

  • Next Thursday (November 21), commencing at 6pm, the CWU will be hosting a live Facebook Q&A session on this issue on the CWU Facebook page here.
  • For those with any comments or concerns on this policy please email : britishbroadband@cwu.org