Vote to protect your futures, younger BT Group members urged

Telecoms & Financial Services, BT, Young Workers

Friday 4th December 2020

Young workers across BT Group stand to be especially badly impacted by the multi-pronged assault on job security and terms & conditions that have triggered the CWU’s company-wide consultative ballot on industrial action.

With that ballot yesterday (Thursday) entering its third and final week, CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr insists that the many threats  posed by a  new senior management team  that seems hell bent on imposing a ‘race to the bottom’ demands  an unprecedented display of workforce solidarity – regardless of age, job spec  or line of business.

Speaking on a special Facebook Live session targeted at the nearly 50% of BT’s total workforce who’ve been in the company for less than 10 years, Andy explained: “The whole demography of BT has changed a lot in recent years, and we are fighting the Count Me In campaign not just to maintain the terms and conditions that those with longer service have had for a long time, but also to improve Ts&Cs for our younger people moving forward. If we lose this fight that’s never going to happen.”

Amid clear indications that that the company is attempting to employ classic ‘divide and rule’ tactics in an attempt to deter different groups of workers from participating in what is undoubtedly the most important ballot of the union’s entire BT membership since the 1987 national strike, the CWU is warning younger members to recognise the insincerity of company efforts to make out that some of the changes it is imposing are actually guided by some kind of ‘fairness’.

One such example is the company’s attempt to dress up last week’s devastating announcement on severance terms – which will see maximum redundancy payouts halved from 24 to 12 months pay from June next year (see story here) – as ‘good news’ for younger workers on account of marginally improved payouts for those with comparatively short service who are given their marching orders!

That obviously fails to recognise the massive ‘cost’  associated with diminished job security for those most likely to be starting a family or attempting to take their first step on the properly ladder  – as well as the fact that any potential  ‘gainers’ quickly become significant losers as their length of service increases.

With compulsory redundancy situations already casting their shadow over BT’s Enterprise, Technology, Group Functions and Global divisions,  CWU Young Worker representative on the Telecoms & Financial Services Executive, Andy Mercer, dismissed management claims that the union is ‘scaremongering’.

“A number of  lines of business are saying they have no intention of making people redundant, but every line of business is changing the redundancy terms – and what does that tell you?” he asked. “Why change redundancy terms unless you are making it cheaper for yourself to make people redundant?”

                           Fiona Curtis

Speaking on Monday’s Facebook Live broadcast – which has now received well over 11,000 views on Facebook alone – Openreach national team member Fiona Curtis agreed: “Ask yourself,  what benefit is it for BT to reduce redundancy terms? The only reason for me is that they plan to make lots of redundancies,” she stressed.

Carolyn Lindsay of Scotland No.1 Branch cited particular concerns surrounding BT’s so called Better Workplace site rationalisation programme, under of which hundreds of sites across the country will be consolidated into just 30 key locations over the next four years – something that is already certain to result in staff displacement on a massive scale.

Pointing out that recent events demonstrate that BT has no qualms about forcibly exiting those who have worked throughout the pandemic to keep the country connected, the Glasgow-based Consumer rep continued: “That really hit home with Aberdeen where I have friends who lost their jobs. BT didn’t allow those people a future, knocking down every idea the CWU came up with to try to keep them in employment,” she said.

Highlighting  the ramifications of the site strategy for young workers across the country who are “looking to build our lives, buy houses, start families”, Carolyn concluded: “It brings into question whether that’s something we can do when working for a company making decisions like this.”

Quincy Raymond of Tyne & Wear Clerical branch agreed – dismissing the myth that young people ‘don’t have plans for the future’.

“That’s simply not true,” she insisted, pointing out that BT Consumer’s full scale assault on higher graded work in contact centres “has taken away our ability to progress and develop within the company…and this doesn’t only take away our self worth but we are losing money as well.”

Will Murray of Greater London Combined cited similar threats to jobs and career progression in Openreach.

“We’ve heard about the changes to redundancy terms and Ts&Cs and if we let BT get away with mass redundancies in the desk now what will they do to the field workforce once FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) is live,” he asked.

“No matter what part of BT Group you work in you need to vote ‘YES’ now.”

  • View the CWU Young Workers Facebook Live broadcast here