BT Compulsory Redundancies – Updated 22nd July 2020

22nd July 2020 – Technology outrage a ‘new low for BT’ – Full Article Here

Throughout the past few months BT members have played a critical role maintaining the nation’s connectivity during an international disaster, working throughout the pandemic as a key worker. It is, with a heavy heart that today I can tell you how your employer has chosen to ignore your sterling service by announcing 150 redundancies most of which look likely to be compulsory from an in-scope group of 200 employees.  

This news which no doubt will be extremely shocking to you, represents a phased programme of job losses. Technology is not providing your Union with any meaningful consultation as they intend to stick to the statutory minimum for consultation of 45 days. 

This is a fundamental shift in the way BT are negotiating with the CWU. Your employer is intent on a redundancy selection criterion, that won’t even allow for volunteers to put themselves forward for voluntary leaver packages.

Management have refused to accept the view of the CWU in the following

  • Avoiding compulsory redundancy by agreeing to:

 Extending the areas/pools for a voluntary redundancy exercise.
A preference exercise prior to any selection e.g. allowing individuals in a   pool to opt for voluntary redundancy prior to any selection exercise

  • Adhering to the legally binding agreement under the annexe of the 2018 pensions agreement, which include obligation on BT to work jointly with the CWU to resolve staff surpluses through a combination of redeployment, insourcing, contractor and agency displacement and offering of enhanced voluntary leaver packages before any actual redundancy proposals can be formalised. 

The areas in Technology that are in scope for phase 1 are as follows:

  • Dynamic Infrastructure (DI)
  • CIST
  • Redeployees –  within DI, SP & IT

8th July 2020 – ‘Perfect storm’ brewing in Technology, warns CWU, as challenges stack up on multiple fronts.

29th June 2020Another View of BT’s proposed redundancies – World Socialist Web Site Article

2nd July 2020 – New ‘Better Workplace’ site closure plans emerge in BT Group Business Services

Mounting job security fears across BT Group have been further exacerbated following the announcement by Group Business Services (GBS) of radical site rationalisation proposals.

At present GBS – which includes Contract Delivery Services, Group Customer Billing, Group Business Assurance and Process Excellence & Automation – employs just under 500 team member grade employees spread across around 50 UK sites. Under its ‘Better Workplace’ site rationalisation plans, however, the division’s footprint will reduce to just six key locations plus a handful of specialist sites.

In total around 40 existing GBS sites – including Crawley, Reading and Sevenoaks, each of which currently house more than 20 GBS team member grade employees – are not listed as ‘future locations’ under management’s site rationalisation blueprint.
As such, a sizeable percentage of GBS’s current UK workforce will displaced by the time the division’s ‘Better Workplace’ programme is completed in March 2024. By contrast, GBS’s much larger offshore workforce is unaffected by the shake-up.

By 2024 GBS intends to have ‘core operations’ in the UK based in Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester with other ‘key sites’ in London, Darlington and Newcastle. Separate sites covering specific functions will remain open in Ipswich and Derry; a small presence will be retained at BT’s London head office and operations will continue in Darlington and Newcastle where teams are co-located with colleagues in the call centres.

However, with details yet to emerge as to exactly what work will be conducted in each of the surviving sites, CWU assistant secretary Nigel Cotgrove cautions against simplistic assumptions that anyone currently based in the named ‘future locations’ will be unaffected.

“Even if you are working in one of the sites named in the plan it is not clear what work will be in those sites,” he stresses. “Everyone is facing a very uncertain future, while GBS intends keeping thousands of jobs offshore.”
Nigel continues: “Already it’s clear that Group Customer Billing do not want to maintain a site in Crawley, which is the largest site not mentioned in any company communications. “At this point in time we’re not even clear whether this is a proposed GBS withdrawal from the site, or whether the site will close completely.”

Similar question marks hang over the GBS work currently conducted at the Reading ATE and Sevenoaks Workstyle sites, the latter of which is currently witnessing the spectre of compulsory redundancies in Enterprise. Though both Reading and Sevenoaks, like Crawley, do not apparently feature in GBS’s future, at present the division is not yet ready to commence consultation over their future.

BT Group-wide issue

The already concerning redeployment challenge emerging in GBS is exacerbated by the act that the division’s ‘Better Workplace’ programme is not happening in isolation. Just last week Openreach announced a new location strategy which unleashes a full-frontal assault on the division’s desk-based workers nationwide. Only days later the seriousness of potential job threats stemming from BT Technology’s ongoing transformation programme – amplified by that division’s own ‘Better Workplace’ site cull – were laid bare to reps attending a special online forum. (See report here)

The fact that other BT lines of business look set to be facing their own massive redeployment challenges at precisely the time when displaced GBS members (and vice versa) will be seeking redeployment already looks set to make a bad problem worse – further exacerbated by the fact that the staggered ‘Better Workplace’ announcements by different CFUs mean that, as yet, there is no definitive picture of what BT work will ultimately remain in any geographical location.

“We’ve asked BT to set out its overall plans for sites in the different regions impacted, so that members can be fully aware of the whole picture – but astonishingly we’ve been advised that there is no overall plan,” cautions Nigel. “Despite ‘Better Workplace’ being a major project championed by the most senior management in the company, the various CFUs are seemingly being allowed to move ahead already without proper co-ordination. Frankly the lack of co-ordination and clarity on this is shameful and totally unfair to everyone impacted. “Against this difficult backdrop, members in GBS can rest assured that the CWU will be doing all we can to keep as many jobs as possible in GBS in the UK. We will be lobbying hard for the onshoring of work, the maximising of redeployment opportunities for displaced staff across BT and we will be opposing compulsory redundancies.
Nigel concludes “Right across BT attacks are taking place on pay, grading, resourcing and now locations – tellingly at a time when the business is also moving to attack redundancy terms. The attitude of BT has fundamentally changed. “There’s never been a more important time to be in the CWU, because we all need to stand together to fight for job security and to defend hard won terms & conditions.”

29th June 2020 – Tension rises in Technology amid management stonewalling on redeployment

The seriousness of potential job threats stemming from BT Technology’s ongoing transformation programme – amplified by the massive site rationalisation programme – have been laid bare to branch activists attending a special online branch forum.

Despite three months of intensive CWU efforts to engage with management on ways to mitigate the impact of Technology’s site location strategy – which was branded “simply unacceptable” by the union when it was revealed in March – to date every single one of the union’s counter proposals to open up genuine dialogue have been rejected.
From the outset the CWU has warned that hundreds of team member grade employees will be left ‘stranded’ by the business’s  aspiration to consolidate most of its office-based operations in to just six locations nationwide.

At present, Technology’s employees are dispersed across nearly 400 sites – but, under the division’s ‘Better Workplace’ proposals that were unveiled to 8,000 impacted staff (including managers) this spring, the division will consolidate into six ‘UK Hubs’ plus a number of ‘Specialist Buildings’ focussing on a single function.
Despite intense efforts by the CWU to extract detailed information from the business over the proposed timescale of multiple building closures over the next four years – and number of individuals who will be displaced from their current roles by not just those closures but an associated ‘transformation’ drive which will profoundly change the types of roles being conducted in different locations – all the CWU knows for certain at present is that:

  • Technology’s six ‘UK Hubs’ will be located in  Ipswich, Bristol, Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester and London – at a stroke raising profound questions over the future job security of huge numbers of employees who are beyond reasonable travelling distance of those locations. Union efforts to persuade the company to consider the possibility  of additional hubs – notably in Scotland, Wales and the South West where large number of employees would find it impossible to commute to Manchester, Birmingham  or Bristol respectively – have fallen on deaf ears
  • A total of 12 additional single-function buildings will remain  – but these provide scant comfort for displaced Technology staff living nearby, because management has categorically rejected CWU appeals for office space in these, or any other, locations to be offered to any anyone not involved in that niche area of work.

The Specialist Buildings initially announced in March included the command centre in Sheffield; the UK international satellite gateway at Madley; a ‘test centre’ in Borehamwood, broadcast/media functions at BT Tower in London and subsea cable termination in Goonhilly, Penzance and Bude.

23rd June 2020 – ‘No-one safe from compulsory redundancy’ as Openreach attacks desk based roles, warns CWU

The latest manifestation of the belligerent new management approach sweeping across BT Group has prompted CWU warnings of a looming bloodbath of desk-based members in Openreach.

Hot on the heels of compulsory redundancies  in Enterprise, a site rationalisation programme in Technology that looks set to displace hundreds with no obvious potential of redeployment and yesterday’s brutal attack on offline work in Consumer (see story here), today’s announcement  by Openreach of a new  ‘location strategy’ unleashes a full-frontal assault on the division’s desk-based workers nationwide.
Under the plan, which has been presented to the CWU as a fait accompli, without consultation, the desk-based work that is predominantly conducted in over 30 ‘Centres of Excellence’ across the country will be concentrated into just nine locations – most of which will be beyond reasonable travel for displaced members of staff. In addition several hundred work from other locations, in line with previous agreements with the CWU, and these individuals are also now being told that cannot continue, “Be in no doubt; the scale of this plan will mean that members in all locations will be under threat of compulsory redundancy – and Openreach’s own FAQ’s confirm that,” stresses CWU assistant secretary Davie Bowman.

Pointing out that even the concentration of the work into the current 30-plus locations had been hugely problematic when it was instituted five years ago, the union’s national officer for Openreach continues: “Many will recall the debacle of the ‘Working Together’programme –  itself driven by dogma, not by pragmatism – that resulted in the setting up the Centres of Excellence after difficult and protracted negotiations, with those not able to travel also being catered for.

“ These new plans reduce that footprint from 30-plus to just nine locations – Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Ipswich, Leeds, Liverpool and Judd Street in London – with the majority of those displaced, we believe, unable to relocate to those locations based on any definition of ‘reasonable travel’.
“Don’t be fooled if you currently work in one of the named locations, because the function you currently carry out may not be planned to be in that location going forward.
“Similarly, members should not be lulled into a false sense of security by Openreach’s talk of a five-year ‘roadmap’ to the new location strategy. Somewhere will be the first to close, and anyone who happens to be normally based in that building will be affected much sooner.

Davie stresses: “What we’re experiencing right now is the same dogmatic attitude  which drove the Working Together fiasco, only worse, because it stems from the same fundamentalist and inflexible view as to  how desk-based work should be carried out. “The CWU absolutely recognises that transformation is here to stay – and that automation and artificial intelligence will change how roles look and feel – but having everyone in such few locations does not assist that.”

Abject betrayal of key workers and UK Plc

Pointing out that the scrapping of more than two thirds of the current Centres of Excellence flies in the face of the core tenet of the hard-negotiated Working Together agreement with  Openreach – namely that those unable to travel to new locations would have their current work brought to them – Davie highlighted the added irony of the company taking its current stance in a period of COVID-19-enforced homeworking

“During the last three months almost of all of the circa 7,000 CWU represented grade employees in the desk-based roles affected by this location strategy  have been working from home – carrying out ‘essential work’  as ‘key workers’ – supporting their field colleagues in keeping the country connected,” he explains.
“This has been a lifeline across the whole of society throughout the pandemic, yet these same workers are now effectively being told that their efforts are no longer valued, their labours are no longer treasured and that their future is wholly uncertain.
“After a period of successful mass homeworking the needlessness of the company casting doubts over the future employment of those who cannot travel to new centralised locations is doubly exposed – even more so given Openreach CEO Clive Selley’s own statements in media interviews on the impact of coronavirus on working practices,” Davie continues.

“On April 8 Mr Selley was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying he thought the experience would ‘drive a level of permanent change’. In fact he went on to say that he ‘struggled to imagine that we will all get back on the 6.30am to Charing Cross each day’ continuing: ‘Maybe we won’t work from home all the time, but perhaps we will for part of the week. It will make people think about being more flexible. I am sure it will drive change in business ethics that will be long-lasting. The priority is not optimising profit, it is doing the right thing by the nation and your employees. These are higher motivations than making money.”

Davie adds: “It’s hard to square that statement with the implications of Openreach’s inflexibility over anyone conducting desk-based work having  to travel to one of nine locations.
“And when you consider that  desk=based roles are also being attacked on the grading front – something that is reflected in the choice of locations where they will need to bring in  new recruits on new contracts and different pay points – it’s hard to see any high-minded aspirations to “do the right thing for the nation” in Openreach’s current actions.
“In practice, the agenda that Openreach seems set on pursing is one of displacing a substantial  number of loyal employees who are helping to build the UK’s fibre network for the future – and either replacing them on the cheap with a new generation of UK workers on poorer terms and conditions,  or potentially transferring the work offshore.

“How’s that for corporate social responsibility when it’s becoming abundantly clear that the UK economy will need every decent job that can possibly survive the coronavirus pandemic!”
Davie concludes: “Right across BT attacks are taking place on pay, grading, resourcing and now locations – tellingly at a time when the business is also moving to attack redundancy terms.

“Members across BT Group should be aware that no-one is safe, regardless of their role, because the attitude of their employer has fundamentally changed. “Compulsory redundancy should never be an inevitability based on location. This is a cold business choice that the company has taken and it must and will be resisted by the CWU with all the effort and resources this will take.”