England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

BT Group workers to vote on industrial action

No to compulsory redundancies – Make management remember 5th November!

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has announced a national consultative ballot of members in the BT Group (BT, EE and Openreach) for industrial action against compulsory redundancies.

BT senior management have escalated their campaign to enforce compulsory redundancies among the workforce, many of whom are key workers, maintaining essential services throughout the pandemic. The most recent slap in the face for the workforce was the announcement of 200 new compulsory redundancies within BT Technology. This is despite ample opportunities for redeployment or voluntary leavers. 

In 2019, BT senior management announced a site rationalisation scheme which threatens closures of contact centres across Britain and Northern Ireland, outsourcing work to make workers redundant and cutting redundancy payments to the legal minimum. The global pandemic has shown millions of workers can work from home. BT has even used this fact to market its products and services to customers. Yet they are denying their own workers this same opportunity and sacking them instead. It’s an insult!

Although the CWU leadership labels these developments as a change of tack by the company’s senior management, it follows a consistent approach of dividing and attacking the workforce over a number of years.

Attacks on BT Group workers since 2013:
– A two-tiered workforce was created for non-management grades, with new staff on lower terms, conditions and pensions;
– 13,000 layoffs of managers and professionals grades represented by Prospect;
– The closing and undermining of the defined-benefit pension scheme, with the introduction of a redundancy scheme for the first time.

Up until this point, unfortunately, the CWU leadership effectively accepted these attacks on the workforce – initially enthusiastically to in-source jobs (on lower terms and conditions), and then from a position of weakness. Concessions were made without planning a strategyto regroup and win back rights, which has invited further aggression from management.

A line has been drawn in the sand now and the CWU leadership, alongside the Prospect union, has said enough is enough. A national consultative ballot for industrial action in opposition to these attacks can bring together workers immediately affected – although, unfortunately, some will be made redundant already – and those who could face the same fate later. A day of action has been called for 5th November, and can be an important event to galvanise members, organise for the ballot and make public this glaring corporate profiteering during a crisis.

CWU members must build for the largest possible turnout and ‘Yes’ vote in the consultative ballot. However, nothing can be assumed about the response from BT senior management. The CWU leadership must make clear that this is a step towards a full, official ballot of all BT Group workers to take strike action against these attacks if management does not back down. 

  • No compulsory redundancies – return to redeployment
  • Don’t treat workers like trash – we refuse to be thrown on the scrapheap!

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