Time to unite against BT’s ‘wrecking ball’ managementBT September 18 2020
An urgent rallying call has today (Friday) been issued to members across BT Group – with deputy general secretary Andy Kerr stressing the vital importance of across-the-board involvement in the union’s ‘Count Me In’ campaign.
Launched in mid-July, in response to multiple different manifestations of a belligerent new management approach that is sweeping across every single BT line of business, many thousands of members have already signed up in support of a concerted CWU fightback that is becoming more urgent by the minute.
With new attacks on job security, terms and conditions, grading and career progression now erupting on a seemingly daily basis, Andy has this afternoon lashed out at a “challenging employer that has become more ruthless than we’ve ever seen” – even as loyal staff strive tirelessly to keep the country connected during an unprecedented and ongoing national health emergency.
“We already know of the compulsory redundancies in Enterprise and Technology from a highly profitable company at a time when the country faces the biggest threat to job losses it’s ever had,” observes Andy in a special video address that has just been texted to the union’s entire BT Group membership.
“And we know there are potentially more job losses to come, as BT push towards its ‘Better Workplace Programme’ with the intention of moving to just 30 locations.
“On top of that BT are downgrading your hard-won pay terms and conditions in all lines of business. This is a cynical act, which does nothing but line the pockets of an already highly profitable company. Sadly they no longer want to be the market leader for pay, terms and conditions, but prefer to be part of a race to the bottom, aligning themselves with the lowest payers in the industry.”
Alluding to plausible indications received by the union that Technology and Enterprise could be considering shifting some work to India while laying off employees currently doing that work in the UK – and Openreach’s growing reliance on offshore resource that already sees two thirds of Fibre Network Delivery’s (FND) directly employed desk-based workforce based in India, with more likely to follow – Andy observes: “All this at a time when Openreach is receiving billions from the Government for building the fibre network at a time of fast-rising UK unemployment! Our message is simple: A UK fibre network should be planned and built by UK based workers.”
The DGS continues: “They’ve also called time on our Pensions Agreement, which includes compulsory redundancy terms – and this is treating its employees with contempt. For those who may face redundancy further down the line – be clear, the severance package will be significantly less.
Urging members to give the fullest possible support to the Count Me In campaign – which is ultimately all about attempting to defend job security and the hard-won Ts&Cs that members cherish – Andy concludes: “We can only put maximum pressure on the company if we have our membership fully and visibly behind us.
Determination to fight…
Widespread anger at the way in which members across BT Group are being treated by the company – combined with a steely determination to fight back hard and quickly – was the overwhelming theme of a special Branch Forum to discuss the ‘Count Me In’ campaign on Wednesday – as the below comments from delegates demonstrate:
Jacky Morrey, Mid Wales, the Marches & North Staffs Branch: “BT’s message to its employees has been in Quarter 1 that ‘you’re essential’ and in Quarter 2 that ‘you’re expendable’ – proven with the decision on Aberdeen.
Ricky Henderson, Edinburgh, Dundee & Borders Branch: “Our members kept the country connected throughout a national crisis and are not being treated with respect by their employer.”
Shona Lamont, Scotland No.1 Branch: “I am sure many customers would be surprised to know how key workers who have kept the country going are being treated.”
Debbie Hardy, Somerset, Devon & Cornwall Branch: “We have nothing to lose at this stage – need to put them on the spot.”
Angela Teeling, Mersey Branch: “Let’s throw politeness out the door and tell BT Group where to go!”
Connor McCann, Meridian Branch: “ I’d like to see a consultative ballot followed by a Doorstep Protest to show the company our members are ready to be counted.”
Michelle Richardson, North East Branch: “As a retired engineer said to me the other day, this is what happens when you put an accountant in charge of the company!”
John Turnbull, Mid Wales, the Marches & North Staffs Branch: “There is a level of incompetence at the top that the workforce has never seen in BT before and I truly don’t believe these people are fit to run national telecoms industry. The share price when Gavin Patterson went was about £2.20 and he was removed because it was so low – and now it’s around half that! Shareholders don’t, of course, care about the workforce but even investors who see a company that is so incompetently run should get worried. Managers, employee relations and HR have all changed under the current leadership and it is a disgrace what the company is doing to key workers with many years of loyal service. I think we need to go for the head of the snake.”
Chris Power, South East Central Branch: “I know it’s going to be a long campaign but we have to start moving on this.”
Simon Edwards, Mid Wales, the Marches & North Staffs Branch: “We need to get the public on side and things like the loss of local jobs, particularly where the work goes offshore, will be sensitive issues. We need to get the media to press BT about what is going on at a time when they are putting the begging bowl out asking for taxpayers’ money to boost their broadband rollout.”
Bill Dixon, South London, Surrey & North Hampshire Branch: “Our members know what’s going on and they’re looking to their trade union to lead them into this campaign – and I’m absolutely certain they will follow us because they are looking for action on the issues they are cheesed off about.”
Meanwhile management outrages continue to stack up…
The alarming scale and scope of multiple attacks on job security and terms & conditions in different BT lines of business were laid bare at Wednesday’s Branch Forum.
In Enterprise dozens of compulsory redundancies have already taken place and an announcement on a second phase of job losses is expected imminently. In Technology, meanwhile, the union is fighting hard to for the introduction of at least some element of voluntarism in a jobs cull of nearly 200 – and just yesterday (Thursday) a further compulsory redundancy exercise was announced in BT Group Functions .
Openreach national officer Davie Bowman outlined a series of interconnected attacks on desk-based roles and grading – combined with surging company reliance on offshoring and third party labour which is setting alarm bells ringing on the issue of long-term job security for members in Fibre Network Delivery in particular.
In Service Delivery, meanwhile, members are up in arms at the latest imposition of Contractual Overtime (COT), while the union’s small but fiercely loyal repayment planning membership have just signalled their willingness, in a consultative ballot, to take industrial action if Openreach persists on imposing unagreed changes to their grading and job description.
In Consumer, a direct attack is taking place on career progression opportunities stemming from the imposition of a new operating model and management’s blind faith in the ‘Albert’ support tool which bosses insist removes the need for subject matter specialists and higher graded work despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary produced by the union.
Anger in Consumer has further has further been stoked by the imposition of unagreed changes to the terms and conditions of new TM1 joiners– under which Sunday allowances have been removed in their entirety along with additional Bank Holiday payments for all but Christmas Day and New Year’s day. Not only does that change reduce the earning potential of existing TM1s by around £2,000 pa, but the earning potential of existing employees has also been placed at risk given the likelihood of management opting to use ‘cheaper’ employees when making rostering decisions.
And against an increasingly bleak pan-BT backdrop, the longer term spectre of the Group-wide ‘Better Workplace’ programme looms large – with BT Group’s eye-wateringly ambition plans to consolidate all its UK operations into just 30 key locations over the next three to five years certain to present a redeployment challenge of gargantuan proportions.
With large numbers of employees currently based outside of reasonable travelling distance to the 30 new hubs – and a lack of clarity even now as to how lines of business will consolidate their own operations, the significance of BT’s decision to serve notice on the generous redundancy terms contained in the 2018 Pensions Agreement is plain for all to see.