‘Where’s Watson?’ asks CWU as Technology boss refuses to discuss disputed compulsory redundancies

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT

Tuesday 25th August 2020

Disbelief at the point blank refusal of BT Technology boss Howard Watson to meet with the CWU to discuss ways in which  the union believes staff surpluses could be easily be addressed without resorting to compulsory redundancies is snowballing into fury just hours ahead of a mass meeting of members.

Tonight (Tuesday) all CWU members in the troubled division are being invited to join an emergency Zoom meeting to discuss the deepening crisis unfolding on account of company attempt to steamroller through nearly  190 jobs cuts  – most of which look certain to be compulsory as a result of management’s unwillingness to engage with the union over a voluntary approach.

With the company’s original timetable for the job cuts meaning that the last formal day of service for many of those affected would have been next Monday (August 31), tonight’s members’ meeting was already bound to be a charged affair.

Yet despite Technology’s acceptance last week that it won’t meet its own deadline for the first wave of forced exits in a staggered redundancy programme – of which the current employee cull represents just the initial phase – any relief over the stay of execution was dashed yesterday by an extraordinary abrogation of responsibility for associated staff suffering by the division’s top boss.

Responding to a hard hitting open letter the CWU sent to the division’s Chief Technology & Information Officer (CTIO) last Tuesday (see story here) Mr Watson dismissed outright the  union’s request for a face-to-face meeting  – kiboshing  any hope that he would take personal responsibility for a reconsideration of repeatedly ignored  CWU counter-proposals that the union believes could resolve the staff surplus voluntarily.

Mr Watson was unequivocal in his high-handed remoteness: “ I note your request to meet, but if the CWU’s objective is to ask me to change the way that we are proposing to transform our organisation, I need to be clear I am completely supportive of the approach being taken by my team,” he wrote.

“My team are better placed than me to understand the operational detail of their units and the skills and competencies of our colleagues involved. My long established style isn’t to override our senior leaders, and I won’t be changing that now.”

“Where the CWU have outstanding points, you need to continue to discuss those with the key decision makers already available to you through the collective consultation process.”

                         Sally Bridge

CWU national officer Sally Bridge admits she is flabbergasted at the response.

“To date every single one of the CWU’s carefully considered counter-proposals to what we believe are utterly avoidable compulsory redundancies have been knocked back every time we have raised them– but given we’re now being told that the HR Director wishes to meet us to reconsider what we have been telling him and others for ages we will obviously do just that,” she stresses.

“We will never stop making representations on behalf of the loyal ‘key workers’ who have worked tirelessly to keep the country connected during the Covid-19 pandemic yet are now lined up to be rewarded with the sack – but in all of this you have to ask ‘Where’s Watson?’

At a time when people’s livelihoods are on the line, is it really so unreasonable for the CWU to expect a face-to-face meeting with their ultimate boss? It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that, as loyal and longstanding employees face the terrifying prospect of compulsory redundancy at a time of unprecedented recession, Howard Watson is refusing to come out of his Covid-secure bunker!

“What kind of message does that give out to the wider BT workforce at a time of unprecedented concern across the entire company about management’s current direction?”

All members across BT Technology are urged to attend a tonight’s specially convened online meeting where the CWU’s Technology National Team will give a comprehensive update on the unfolding industrial relations crisis.

The  Zoom webinar will commence at 6:30pm and run until 8pm.

To join the webinar, please click the on the link below, and enter the passcode: