Sad truth out on Shrewsbury at last as BT Meetings moves to cease roles and offshore the remainder

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Just over 70 BT Global team members in Shrewsbury have been left reeling by the pre-Christmas bombshell that their work is either time-expired or earmarked for exportation to Hungary – with the first 31 jobs to go on February 28.

Those initial casualties of what the CWU believes is a callous cost-cutting decision stem from the disbanding of the team that organises audio conferencing events work.

Management claim the move stems from a collapse in demand for managed audio conferencing on account of the accelerated take-up of self-service platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom during the pandemic – and that what little work remains can easily be absorbed by a team already conducting audio work in Debrecen, Hungary.

But that’s just the most immediate element of a devastating double whammy for members in Shrewsbury, because just over a year later – by the end of March 2023 – the entire remainder of BT Meetings (formerly BT Conferencing) work will follow suit, again destined for Debrecen.

This means that a time-delayed sword of Damocles has been left dangling over around 40 CWU-represented grade employees involved in video conferencing – a move that has been slammed by the union as a “kick in the teeth” for loyal UK staff.

Extraordinarily, the devastating offshoring announcement came just two months after nine London-based team members conducting the same video work in Ambassador House were offered relocation to Shrewsbury under an earlier rationalisation exercise!

At that time, amid persistent speculation that the Shrewsbury site was being gradually run down, the CWU asked management to confirm its long-term commitment to the Shropshire town – with the union receiving the less than convincing company  response on September 27 that the “Shrewsbury site and its future is not part of any transformation plans at this time.  Should it become so, we will consult with you appropriately.”

CWU national officer for BT Global, Allan Eldred, explains: “Unsurprisingly, none of our London Global Meetings members who’d been placed ‘at risk’ decided to take up the option of moving with their work to Shrewsbury, with most opting to take redundancy packages instead.

“The union’s National Team for Global still finds it remarkable, however, that just nine weeks after the union got short shift for even asking the question over Shrewsbury’s future, our concerns have been so comprehensively vindicated.

“Given that a decision of this magnitude cannot have been taken overnight, members are understandably also perplexed why Global didn’t come clean before opening a voluntary recent release scheme at the site which has only just closed.

“Had the company have done so, a lot of members have told us that they would certainly have attended a recent jobs fair at Snowhill in Birmingham that was laid on as part of that exercise – but had refrained from doing so because they had no immediate reason to believe their jobs were at risk.”


CWU response…

The union has made it clear to management that it neither accepts nor agrees with BT Global’s current proposals – and the National Team is currently focussing on three main objectives, namely:

  • Identifying alternative work for the 31 Audio Events members who are most immediately at risk
  • Developing an alternative approach to Global’s BT Meetings division abandoning the UK
  • Ensuring that other parts of BT make their vacancies available to members in Shrewsbury.

Allan stresses: “The team is in the process of developing a counter-proposal that is UK-based.

“In the meantime, however, we’re pleased that BT has agreed extend  the ‘Expression of Interest’phase of its audio work disbandment plans to the video group, just in case this will provide more time for audio people to move into the video role and thus gain extra time to find alternative work.

“This is a welcome and common sense move by management, though what it will achieve in practice remains to be seen given the recentness of the last release scheme.

“However, whilst the CWU understands the effect that technology and the pandemic have had on the move to self-service audio and video conferencing provision, we still believe the current proposal is a kick in the teeth for staff who’ve shown total flexibility and cooperation over many years.

“There has to be a better way than this.”