Shock and outrage at BT facilities outsourcing announcement

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

The CWU has reacted furiously to BT’s announcement that it intends to outsource its Facilities Services division – pledging to vigorously fight a move that poses huge risks to the terms & conditions and job security of more than 1,700 CWU represented grade employees.

Responding to the devastating news that was delivered to appalled employees this morning (November 19), the union immediately pointed out that the move flies in the face of BT’s 2012 decision in to bring the previously outsourced division back in-house after a previous decade-long earlier flirtation with an outsourcing model was ultimately judged to have comprehensively failed.

A special National Briefing of all BT branches with members in Facilities Services has now been called for Wednesday (November 21) at which the CWU will brief reps about the union’s next steps.

Already, however, anger and dismay is rife across a workforce that faces a re-run of its outsourcing in 2000 to a number of companies that ultimately became known as the Monteray Consortia – fuelled by the grim experience of a decade of declining and increasingly anomaly-ridden Ts&Cs outside BT during the Monteray years.

Those anomalies have only recently started to be addressed following a hard fought CWU campaign that led to collective bargaining rights being re-established in BTFS in 2014 – two year’s after BT’s acquired its erstwhile outsourced facilities services provider, citing the need to ‘take back control’ of an operation which was seen to be deficient in terms of both quality of service and the value for money it was delivering.

Worryingly, the rationale given by BT for its plan to re-outsource Facilities Services to two companies – CBRE and ISS – from April 2019 is eerily reminiscent of the prevalent business mantra at the start of the Millennium when the division was first outsourced.

Attempting to justify today’s announcement to the union, BT argued that Facilities Services is not a ‘core business’ and, as such, not part of its so-called ‘One BT’ plan’. It went on to tell the union that BTPFS had not just failed in its initial objective to win other facilities services work outside of BT, but that BT Group is now convinced that ‘efficiency savings’ could be made by farming out the work, and those conducting it, to outside providers.

From the union’s perspective, the latter statement represents the clearest possible indication that the 1,700 CWU-represented grades earmarked for TUPE to CBRE and ISS are liable to be transferred into a cost-cutting agenda.

“We understand that the decision to outsource Facilities Services has been taken at Board level, and are deeply concerned that a dangerous precedent is in the process of being set,” stresses CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr.

“If things genuinely have gone full circle, and we’re witnessing a return to a business mantra where any functions that are not deemed to be ‘core’ are liable to outsourced, this would represent a profound and deeply unwelcome shift in Board-level thinking.

“Either way, the CWU will not sit back and watch our members’ jobs and livelihoods being sold off.”

A mass betrayal…

Of 1,900 BTPFS employees impacted by the outsourcing move, 200 are managers – but the 1,700 CWU represented grades affected include around 770 housekeepers (cleaners) and grounds maintenance staff, nearly 700 general technicians and engineers and 210 security officers.

Lambasting BT’s apparent lack of concern as to how these loyal employees will be impacted, assistant secretary Sally Bridge continued: “This is an absolute abrogation of BT’s responsibilities to our members and we’ve expressed our shock and outrage accordingly – particularly in light of the 2012 decision to bring these people back in house so BT could directly manage a previously outsourced facilities services operation that was seen to be deficient.

“Many of the members affected already have first-hand experience of working for a third-party supplier. Given the poor track record of outsourcing companies on labour and service standards – along with the recent demise of big resourcing companies like Carillion, which was interestingly once involved in the Monteray Consortia – the CWU believes that the case for retaining the services and people in-house is just as relevant today as it was in 2012.

“We believe that there is not only a risk to our members’ Ts&Cs and job security in being outsourced to CBRE and ISS, but that the move also risks reputational harm to BT and a reduction in the level of facilities services provided due to the low-cost operation models and questionable practices common to the outsourcing sector.

“The CWU has therefore informed BT that we will be campaigning vigorously against the outsourcing of Facilities Services.”

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