Spotlight shone on BT’s job security and Ts&Cs bonfire as national consultative ballot is announcedTelecoms & Financial Services, BT, EE November 5 2020
Thursday 5th November 2020
Thousands of BT members across the country are participating in a national day of action against compulsory redundancies, imposed change and the company’s flagrant disregard for longstanding agreements.
Despite Covid restrictions banning mass gatherings, branches and regional Count Me In campaign committees across the country are finding innovative new ways to highlight and harness an unprecedented wave of workforce fury at the shoddy treatment of ‘key workers’ by a new generation of senior management.
Kicking off the CWU’s second UK-wide day of protest against the belligerent new management approach sweeping across the whole of BT Group, the union has today (Thursday) announced the timetable for a national consultative ballot in which members will be able to register their opposition at management’s current trajectory.
In a significant upping of the ante in the union’s Count Me In campaign – revealed this morning in a special Facebook Live session – members across all recognised parts of BT, Openreach and EE will be asked the direct question as to whether the would support a future vote for industrial action.
Announcing the move, CWU national president and chair of the Telecoms and Financial Services Executive, Karen Rose made no bones about the deadly seriousness with which this question is being asked.
“Today is a significant moment for our union, because at the launch of the Count Me In campaign we set out the need to lay the foundations and build towards an industrial action ballot that will be the ultimate decision if BT doesn’t see sense,” she explained.
“As such, today is about putting the next layer of building blocks in place,” she added – explaining that e-ballot papers will be despatched to all members’ personal email addresses on Thursday November 19, with the ballot closing three weeks later on December 10, when the result will be announced.
Deputy general secretary Andy Kerr continued: “Let me be clear about why we decided to go for this consultative ballot: I’m sick and tired of listening to people at a senior level in BT saying ‘you don’t speak for our employees, you just speak for the union’.
“I keep on explaining to them that I’m not the union – the members are – but it’s now important we have a vote on this so I can go back and push it into their faces that quite clearly myself, the Executive and branch activists have been speaking for our members all along, and that we’re all in this together.
Stressing that an overwhelming show of membership solidarity will provide the union with vital leverage in talks with the company, Andy insisted it is now crucial that members the demonstrate the true strength of their feeling that BT halts stops a devastating “race to the bottom.”
“BT is a good company and it can be a great company again – but only if our members are treated properly – and that’s the message we need to get across the senior managers,” he insisted.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward agreed, pledging the combined resources and collective strength of the entire CWU in the battle that lies ahead.
“The impact of a consultative ballot can be massive,” he stressed, “because it gives the opportunity to hold a public debate about what BT are doing.
“There’s already been media interest in this and we will continue to ensure that we leverage this consultative ballot to ensure we secure more publicity. We will also be organising all of our political support to bring to the attention of politicians what BT are doing, and we will be using it to open up direct dialogue with shareholders of the company to explain to them that there is a better way of treating workers who are keeping this country connected and have been designated as ‘key workers’ throughout the pandemic.”
Turning up the heat…
The warnings to management in this morning’s Facebook Live session –which was viewed in real time by more than 2,500 and has since been watched by many thousands more – came as branches were in the process of activating well-laid laid plans for a full-on day of workforce protest which, by necessity in the current climate, is largely centred on social media.
First off the block, however – and taking place yesterday evening before the new national lockdown came into force – the union’s London region Count Me In campaign group quite literally, and very publicly, placed a spotlight on BT Group’s disgraceful behaviour by beaming a hard hitting message of defiance on two of the company’s most important central London bases.
Beginning with BT Centre in Newgate street and then moving on to Openreach’s Judd Street headquarters, the unmissable projection – which caused a particular stir and interest from members of the public outside BT Centre thanks to attempts by a security guard to stop it from happening – audaciously subverted one of BT’s current advertising slogans by declaring the company’s behaviour as ‘Beyond Belief’.
In large lettering that ensured no passerby could miss the key message, the projection spelled out that “BT workers who kept us connected during the pandemic are now being made compulsory redundant” . That refers to the 60-plus forced exits that have already occurred in the company’s Enterprise and Technology divisions, a further 170 compulsory redundancies that are currently in the final phases of implementation in Technology and additional redundancy proposals in Group Functions.
Video interviews, conducted by GLC branch youth rep Will Murray from both sites, were immediately posted on social media.
CWU T&FS Executive member Peter Francis, who helped organise the stunt, said: “It all went very well, and it seemed to generate quite a bit of interest from members of the public – especially outside BT Centre on account of the security guard trying to stop it from happening, even though we were on the public highway.
“I just wish we’d been at Judd Street a few minutes earlier, because just as we got there and were beginning to set up Openreach’s HR Director Kevin Brady walked out the building. It would have been classic if we’d had the projection above him at that very moment, but you can’t plan for everything!”
Thanking not just the keen group of volunteers who made the projections so successful, but also the CWU’s London postal branches who split the cost of not just this stunt but more that are to follow, Peter concludes: “It’s great to see that kind of cross constituency solidarity – and I’m sure it will mean a great deal to our London BT members to know they have the backing of their postal colleagues.”