Action Day message to BT: You want a fight? We’ll give you one!Telecoms & Financial Services February 18 2021
Thursday 18th February 2021
The starkest possible warning has been issued to BT’s top brass that they need to ‘get serious in negotiations or face industrial action’ over multiple threats to job security and hard-won terms and conditions that are erupting across BT Group.
Kicking off the union’s third national Count Me In campaign ‘Day of Action’ with a Facebook Live broadcast this morning (Thursday), CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr insisted only a narrow window of opportunity remains for senior management to heed a gathering tidal wave of workforce fury if they want to avert a full-scale industrial relations meltdown.
With online protests once again taking social media by storm – and Openreach already facing the first of five scheduled days of industrial action next week in a separate dispute involving the union’s small but fiercely loyal membership of Repayment Protect Engineers (see story here) – Andy warned that, unless management changes its current trajectory in a number of key areas, the CWU will be forced to press the nuclear button in a matter of weeks
Citing the compulsory redundancies that are already taking place in some lines of businesses, Andy stressed that the company’s needlessly brutal approach to job losses was one of two key areas where fledgling talks with the company have hit the buffers before they’ve even properly begun.
“I think it’s fair to say we’re at an impasse,” he admitted, adding that on the issue of redundancies “we’ve asked the company for a moratorium, a pause if you like, while we try to negotiate a way through this and get to an agreed position – but the company has basically refused.
“Unless we can get things moving on that issue alone these talks are not going to progress…so we’re at really pivotal moment.
“The other issue that has come into this in the last few days and weeks is the issue of pay,” Andy continued. While no formal proposals have yet been received from the company, the CWU negotiating team has been left in no doubt whatsoever that BT is seriously considering no pay rise at all– or, at best, a tiny rise reflecting the current CPI rates of between 0.6 and 0.7%.
“That‘s far, far short of what we think you deserve,” insisted Andy.
Taken in conjunction with the compulsory redundancies that are already underway involving key workers who have kept the country connected through the pandemic, Andy insisted that BT team member grade employees are now being routinely betrayed on multiple fronts.
“You’ve done a great job…not just keeping this company going but keeping the UK going….and to be treated this way by the company is an absolute disgrace,” Andy raged. “We’re at an impasse with the company, and while we’ll continue to discuss these issues with the company over the next few weeks, as members would expect, I have to say now that we’re reaching crunch-time.
“If the company wants a battle all they need to do is continue what they’re doing in negotiations at present – in other words not moving on the key issues including redundancies.
“That’s a matter for them – it’s their decision – but let me make it clear: The CWU is ready to go into battle if that is what it takes.”
CWU president and chair of the Telecoms & Financial Services Executive, Karen Rose agreed.
“The message today is that it’s time to prepare for taking that ultimate decision to ballot for industrial action – because sadly that will be where we end up if we’re not able to make progress over the next few weeks,” she concluded.