BT Compulsory Redundancies – Technology – Consultative Ballot Results

29th October 2020 – Result of Consultative Ballot.

Following an electronic consultation exercise amongst all of the CWU members in Technology where they were asked whether they opposed the approach Technology management were taking in dealing with the redundancies, and whether they would be prepared in the future to take official Industrial Action in support of themselves and their colleagues.

The result of the ballot is:
YES – 84.0%
NO – 16.0%
Interestingly no turnout has been released yet.
It is fairly clear that our members in Technology overwhelmingly oppose the way management are dealing with the redundancies and endorse the aims of the CWU National Team which is to deal with any surplus resource on a voluntary basis.
It will be our intention to convey the result to Technology management as a matter of urgency in an attempt to get them to have a rethink and let common sense prevail in what is becoming an increasingly fraught situation.
I would like to take this opportunity of thanking all those members that took the time to vote and support their union as well as those branches that worked hard to get this result.

28th October 2020 – More redundancies in Technology exacerbate deepening industrial relations crisis.

More redundancies have just been announced  by BT Technology – three months into a bitterly disputed compulsory redundancy  situation that began in July  when the division announced 200 job losses under  ‘Phase 1’ of its ‘Transformation Programme’.

The ‘Phase 2’ job cuts bombshell , revealed by management this morning (Wednesday), comes as a consultative ballot on strike action over the ‘Phase 1’ job losses is underway in a last ditch bid to  prevent the first ever compulsory redundancies amongst team member grades in Technology becoming  effective on  October 31. Read more »

21st October 2020 – BT Technology – CWU Consultative Ballot.


13th October 2020 – BT Technology – Compulsory Redundancies – Latest.

At the time of writing no fewer than 200 team members are in the process of being made compulsorily redundant. Loyal and long-serving ‘key workers’, who’ve given their all to keep the country connected throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, are now within weeks of being forcibly ejected from the company despite firm evidence provided by the CWU that the staff surplus could painlessly be addressed by voluntary means.
Numerous counter-proposals put forward by the union’s Technology National Team have been rebuffed, and late last month – in an extraordinary act of bad faith – senior management pulled the rug
on the final CWU’s proposal, which would undoubtedly have eradicated the need for wholesale compulsory redundancies, even as the ink was drying on a draft agreement between company and CWU negotiators. See story here
Like most companies, BT has had to change and adapt in these unprecedented times – and, given the turmoil in the UK economy, with so many job losses in the news, it’s easy to lose sight of the real reasons why BT are making such radical change. The unpalatable truth, however, is that the
upheavals we’re seeing in Technology were planned long before the global pandemic – and none are Covid- related.
To briefly summarise:
• In July Technology announced, under its so-called ‘Transformation programme’, what it admitted from the outset was just the first phase of job losses in DI, SP and CIST. In a shocking break from a decades-old approach to dealing with staff surpluses by voluntary means, the division moved
direct to serving compulsory redundancy notices.
• Since then the company has announced that User Access Management work in IT will be transferred offshore to India – directly leading to further compulsory redundancies. See story here.
• Many of the benefits and working conditions we have worked hard to achieve, including Pay and Pension Protection, are now under attack and your job security can no longer be taken for granted.
• Further tranches of job losses are already known to be imminent – and that’s even before the full impact of the BT Group-wide ‘Better Workplace’ site rationalisation programme is truly felt.
Technology has already announced that, over the next four years, its own variant of the Better Workplace Programme will concentrate activities that are currently conducted in hundreds of locations nationwide into just six ‘UK hubs’. These will displace an estimated 8,000 Technology employees (including managers), creating a redeployment challenge of gargantuan proportions, exacerbated by the fact that none of the ‘hubs’ are in Scotland and Wales, and the South Westernmost hub is in Bristol.
Even those currently located in areas where Technology intends to retain a longer-term presence are not necessarily safe – given that full detail of the geographical consolidation of particular functions are not yet fully understood. And, all the while, separate Better Workplace site rationalisations by different lines of business mean than pan-BT redeployment opportunities will steadily decrease – just as BT Group is displaying a new-found enthusiasm for compulsory redundancies as a first resort.
Enough is enough!
In response to these and other related threats to members across BT Group the CWU has launched its national #CountMeIn fightback – details of which can be found here
Even if you’ve not been affected by any of the changes announced to date, you need to appreciate that your job may no longer be safe in this brutal new environment. Above everything, you need to support your union and colleagues by saying to BT Technology that the way it’s behaving is simply
not acceptable.
• Write to your MP using the template letter here, making them aware of what is happening in BT and ask them to write too.
• Write to your senior manager using the template letter here making them aware these job losses are not acceptable.
The CWU will continue to do everything it can to fight against compulsory redundancies but, make no mistake; this is an attack on the job security and Ts&Cs of EVERYONE – and we must ALL stand together.
Over the coming weeks the CWU intends to step up the pressure on BT Technology, and a number of initiatives are planned. It is therefore important that you become involved and support your colleagues who are already under attack.

23rd September 2020 – BT Technology – Compulsory Redundancies – Talks Collapse.

Further to briefing LTB 447/2020 dated 11 September that reported to branches on the ongoing negotiations with Technology regarding the CWU Counter Proposals. We can now report the outcome of those discussions
As you are aware the CWU counter proposals were framed as a result of the membership survey in Technology where it was clearly established that there were sufficient volunteers for the business to avoid compulsory redundancies.
CWU counter proposals included:
– Combining of pools where colleagues have similar skills sets and arranging a preference exercise to determine whether there are enough volunteers that want to leave on VR terms to resolve the required reduction.
– Establishing a register of names of Team Members who would like to leave the business on VR terms by widening of the pools to colleagues with similar skill sets and canvassing to establish if those colleagues would like to leave on VR terms.
– Establishing a ‘Job Swap’ process where it may be possible for a colleague who is potentially redundant to swap positions with a colleague who would like to leave under VR terms.
Over the last few weeks there has been intense discussion on working through the detail and despite management’s steadfast refusal to move away from the selection process, widen redundancy selection pools, or to directly manage a register, we were making progress particularly in the job swap process that would have prevented the need for wholesale
redundancies and provide a lifeline for those desperately trying to stay in BT by swapping with someone doing a similar role.
However, last Friday management informed the CWU that they would be changing the terms job swap partners would potentially leave under from Voluntary Redundancy (VR) to the inferior (VPLS) terms. This is under the authority of Mark Murphy, HR Director.
This eleventh hour amendment by Technology now means that the number of swaps will be reduced and fundamentally tilts the balance towards wholesale compulsory redundancies.
We have expressed our absolute outrage at the way Technology has acted as we believe we were on the verge of an agreement and at no point during any of the intense and protracted discussions did management raise the issue of VPLS. We believe this last minute amendment essentially unacceptably changes our counter proposals and on this basis we
have not given our agreement to the process.
It is our understanding that Technology intends to immediately roll out the process despite our vehement objection to the change in redundancy terms and therefore, on this basis please find attached a copy of the Job Swap process. Technology have further advised us they won’t be proceeding with any preferencing for those in a selection pool scenario.
In conclusion the CWU National Team believe we have done everything we possibly can to avoid compulsory redundancies and have negotiated in good faith based on the feedback and information we have received from the branches and membership. The fact that we have not been able to secure a meaningful agreement to promote and to avoid CR is entirely down to the senior management in Technology. Read more »

11th September 2020 – BT Technology – Compulsory Redundancies – CWU Counter Proposal Update

Over the last few weeks the CWU has been in discussion with Technology over a counter proposal that the union has tabled in order to avoid compulsory redundancies.
The counter proposal, which the CWU presented, has involved a voluntary approach in dealing with the redundancies based on the outcome of the CWU Technology membership survey that clearly established that there are sufficient enough volunteers that would leave the business on voluntary redundancy (VR) terms.
The main areas of the CWU counter proposal are as follows:

  • Combining of pools where colleagues have similar skills sets and arranging a preference exercise to determine whether there is sufficient enough volunteers that want to leave on VR terms to resolve the required reduction.
  • Establishing a register of names of Team Members that would like to leave the business on VR terms by widening of the pools to colleagues with similar skill sets and canvassing to establish if those colleagues would like to leave on VR terms
  • Establishing a ‘Job Swap’ process where it may be possible for a colleague who is potentially redundant to swap positions with a colleague who would like to leave under VR terms.
    The talks have been difficult and complicated not least due to the different areas of the business that are in scope, but mainly because the business are advanced in their selection process and they maintain that any further delay just extends the uncertainty for the individuals involved. It is true to also say that they have consistently rejected the preferencing option and have not wanted to move away from their own selection process.
    They have also maintained that they want to retain their best talent in line with the business requirements.
    The CWU has maintained that our proposal needs to be fully considered as they avoid, reduce and mitigate against compulsory redundancies and that Technology has a legal and moral responsibility to explore and analyse any alternatives that can prevent compulsion. They are also far more straightforward and avoid a selection exercise.
    Therefore, as a result of these discussions there has been some progress and I wanted to give all Branches an update of where we currently are.
  • A Job Swap process has been agreed in principle that will allow on an exceptional basis for a colleague who is potentially redundant to swap positions with a colleague who would like to leave under redundancy terms. This will be a voluntary process and subject to specific criteria that we are currently finalising.
    For those currently in a pool there will be a limited preference exercise that will follow the selection process to establish if there is the ability to swap with someone who is selected, with someone who wants to go.
  • In all scenarios the best talent will be retained in line with the business requirements.
    The detail is currently being worked on over the next few days, which we will share with you as soon as possible but until then no compulsory redundancies will take place.

25th August 2020 – ‘Where’s Watson?’ asks CWU as Technology boss refuses to discuss disputed compulsory redundancies.

Can You Spot Him?

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. Read more »

21st August 2020 – Thousands protest on social media at BT Technology’s epic staff betrayal.

Outrage at the way in which BT Technology is pressing ahead with compulsory redundancies – despite rock solid evidence provided by the CWU that the 187 sought for job cuts could be achieved voluntarily – promoted an outpouring of anger and raw emotion on social media yesterday (Thursday).

Thousands from across the CWU and beyond participated in the National Day of Support for BT Technology Workers, sharing the collective sense of despair and betrayal at the company’s treatment of loyal key workers who have worked tirelessly to keep the country connected during theCovid-19 pandemic.

With those in scope for possible redundancy being ‘rewarded’ for their dedication by having to literally fight for their jobs in a brutal selection process under which the company is choosing who it wants to go before allowing willing volunteers for VR packages to step forward – a myriad of posts reflected the disgust that a major blue chip is treating employees in this manner. Read more »

18th August 2020 – Don’t betray loyal key workers, CWU urges BT Technology boss in damning open letter. 

An urgent appeal has been issued to the boss of BT Technology to intervene in an increasing contentious row over the business’s current refusal to meaningfully engage with the CWU over ways the union believes staff surpluses could be addressed without the need for compulsory redundancies.

In a hard-hitting open letter sent to the division’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, Howard Watson, this morning (Tuesday) –  the union laments the apparent determination of some managers in Technology to claim their first CR scalps by rewarding  loyal ‘key workers’ who have worked tirelessly to keep the country connected during the Covid-19 pandemic with the sack.

Pointing out that the CWU has an exemplary track record of working in partnership with BT to address past staff surplus situations through voluntarism – an approach that has seen tens of thousands take voluntary leaver packages since privatisation – CWU national officer for Technology Sally Bridge insists a “better way”  of dealing  with headcount reductions is not just possible but vital from a business that has any pretention of valuing its workforce.

Stressing that the CWU is not questioning the reasons for Technology’s proposed transformation but rather “the way in which you are trying to achieve it”, Sally explains : “Technology’s current proposals, as they stand, will lead to the absurd position of many people who want to remain employed being forced out and, on the other hand, many who want to leave the company amicably being denied that opportunity.”

Insisting that the door remains open for talks that the union is convinced could address the current impasse “to the satisfaction of both parties,” Sally concludes her open letter to Mr Watson with a simple request for face-to-face meeting.

“We have a good track record of working together and making agreements that benefit our members and the business,” Sally points out. “We would therefore like the opportunity of meeting with you to find a way forward.”

 In the absence to date of a positive company response to the CWU’s repeated requests for meaningful negotiations, plans are taking shape for a high profile day of social media campaigning this coming Thursday (August 20).

5th August 2020 – New Technology outrage as more redundancies are announced.

An already serious redundancy situation in BT Technology took a further turn for the worse this afternoon  (Wednesday 5th August 2020) with management’s announcement that around 30 more team member grade employees have been added to phase one of the jobs cull.

Following on from the division’s  announcement on July 22 of 157 redundancies from an in-scope group of 235 Dynamic Infrastructure and Cyber Security employees – most of which currently look certain to be compulsory – management have today revealed that a further 29 employees in Service Platforms ‘Voice’ are to be given their marching orders.

Management want some out the door as early as October – following on swiftly from the 157 previously announced job losses – with most of the rest of the 29  going by Christmas and just a small number remaining until either March or June next year.

The majority of the latest batch of casualties come from the legacy FeatureNet work area which is due to be switched off in December – though the company admits it will need the skills of some of those earmarked for redundancy until the end of the first financial quarter of 2021 to complete the migration to replacement platforms and to conduct associated system changes.

The latest bombshell from Technology (more details of which can be viewed in BT Members’ Bulletin No. 160/2020 ) means that, in total, 186 job losses have already been confirmed in what is just the initial salvo of a phased redundancy programme that has been triggered by a combination of automation and consolidation under Technology’s far reaching transformation plans.

The division’s brutal approach to the job losses makes it just the second BT Group division to break with the time-honoured principle of voluntarism in redundancy situations.
With the CWU already at loggerheads with management over a radical departure from BT’s traditional approach to staff surpluses that inexplicably appears calculated to cause maximum employee pain,  the situation looks set to deteriorate further because the union’s Technology National  Team believes that more cuts should be expected in other parts of as automation and centralisation continue.

On top of that, the longer-term impact on employees of the division’s  ‘Better Workplace’ plans to consolidate most of its operations from more than 400 sites into just six ‘UK Hubs’ is not yet fully understood – but that potentially signals yet more pain ahead for Technology’s beleaguered workforce.

“The two issues of Better Workplace and business transformation are coming together in the worst possible way in Technology,” stresses CWU assistant secretary Sally Bridge. “Worse still, this is happening at precisely a time when the first ever compulsory redundancies of BT  team member employees are currently underway in BT Enterprise –  signalling a brutal reversal of the enlightened approach to handling staff surplus situations based on voluntarism that BT has successfully operated for  decades with the full co-operation of the CWU.

“The two issues of Better Workplace and business transformation are coming together in the worst possible way in Technology,” stresses CWU assistant secretary Sally Bridge. “Worse still, this is happening at precisely a time when the first ever compulsory redundancies of BT  team member employees are currently underway in BT Enterprise –  signalling a brutal reversal of the enlightened approach to handling staff surplus situations based on voluntarism that BT has successfully operated for  decades with the full co-operation of the CWU.

“On top of that, we’re witnessing a fundamental shift in the way management is negotiating, or rather not negotiating, with the union – with Technology hell bent on redundancy selection criteria that don’t even allow for volunteer to put themselves forward for voluntary leaver packages.
“Inevitably this approach will mean that individuals will be exited from the company who wish to stay, while other people will be compelled to stay when they would actually have preferred, for their own reasons, to take a voluntary leaver package- thereby mitigating the need for compulsory redundancies.”

Formal Disagreement registered

With management currently refusing to consider every single CWU counter to mitigate the need for compulsory redundancies, last week a Formal Disagreement was registered with the company.
This a serious step under the union’s time-honoured partnership agreement with BT Group that should, in theory, prevent a further deterioration in industrial relations by triggering a period of reflection in which both sides take a step back to reconsider the areas in dispute.
“The lack of voluntarism in this redundancy situation is the crux of the matter and at the very heart of our disagreement with Technology,” insists Sally.

“It’s the firm view of the CWU that compulsory redundancies could be avoided if only the business agreed to extend the areas/ pools if individuals in scope and allowed for a meaningful VR exercise that allows individuals in a pool to opt for VR prior to any selection exercise.
The Formal Disagreement also cites the union’s belief that Technology is not adhering to a legally binding agreement contained within an annexe to the 2018 Pensions Agreement covering redundancy situations. That annexe commits the company to work jointly with the CWU to resolve staff surpluses through a combination of redeployment, insourcing of previously off-shored or contracted out work, , retraining and reskilling  and the offering of enhanced voluntary leaver packages before any actual redundancy proposals can be formalised.
Other considerations cited in the Formal Disagreement include:

  • The union’s belief that the current timescales for the Phase1 redundancies are unreasonable as they do not allow for meaningful consultation nor sufficient opportunity for those ‘at risk’ to find suitable alternative roles within the company
  • Concerns that the terms of the Equality Act of 2010 may not be being adhered to on account of the business’s failure to provide information on how the business intends to deal with in-scope employees with protected characteristics

Sally concludes:  “For all these reasons the CWU does not believe that Technology has fulfilled the aim of the relevant legislation – which is to ably demonstrate that, through consultation, they’ve met the requirements of avoiding, reducing or mitigating the consequences of the proposed dismissals. As such the CWU has made it clear to BT that, under the long-established Formal Disagreement Procedure, the status quo ante should apply.”

Technology national team chair Ken Woolley explains: “That means that everything should stop to allow for a proper consideration of the serious issues the union has raised – but, unfortunately, as things stand, Technology is not stopping.

“That’s why it’s absolutely essential that members across the Division and wider-BT fully engage with the CWU’s Count Me In campaign – because it’s only by standing firm collectively for a future in which all those with a stake in the company are treated with dignity and respect that we’ll be able to challenge the devastating trajectory that management has embarked upon.”

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.

With tensions rising in BT Technology amid management stonewalling on redeployment associated with the division’s ongoing transformation programme – even before the full impact of an unprecedented site rationalisation programme really becomes clear – the CWU is urging members to prepare for tumultuous times ahead. Read more »

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.”