Philip Jansen, BT Group CEO, said: “BT has made a massive contribution to the national cause over the past year: we’ve supported the NHS, families and businesses, and avoided the use of redundancy or furlough in our response to the pandemic. Our frontline colleagues and key workers have been true heroes, keeping everyone connected in this most difficult time. BT has delivered for our customers through the dedication of all our people, but inevitably the pandemic hit our financial performance, like that of most companies. In this context, we have to prioritise and I am determined that we will do everything in our power to reward our frontline colleagues.”
The Communication Workers Union represents around 45,000 of BT staff. It has warned that industrial action could have severe impacts on the stability of BT broadband, landline phones and its mobile network. BT also owns and operates EE and Plusnet, meaning vast numbers could be cut-off or slowed down by the strike. With millions of us still working from home and reliant on our broadband connection to work, study, or socialise with friends and family in the evening – it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
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The fallout between the union and BT concern the telecom company’s plans to close sites across the country over the next few years to concentrate its operations in 30 sites. This is partly due to BT’s accelerated push towards fibre broadband and 5G networks.
“We didn’t pick this fight,” said CWU deputy general secretary Andy Kerr.
“What we’re not prepared to accept, however, is seeing members’ cherished job security and Ts&Cs being attacked on multiple fronts – with longstanding colleagues being picked off one by one, simply because a new breed of management wants to stamp its mark by making compulsory redundancies as a matter of warped principle.
“If BT don’t want us to ballot then they can have us back round the negotiating table just as soon as they want. Our door is still open, and we want to resolve this dispute, but this will require a huge shift in attitude from the company. At this point in time that doesn’t look as if it’s going to happen – and that’s why we’re gearing up to fight.”