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CWU Maintain Threat of Strike After BT Confirm Redundancy Terms

Saturday, November 28th, 2020 (7:35 am) - Score 8,016

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) has maintained its threat of strike action against broadband and mobile giant BT after the operator concluded their consultation on changes to redundancy terms, which among other things will see the operator slash redundancy payments in half (from 24 months to 12).

By all accounts the BT Group has had a rough few years’ and its share price has collapsed from nearly 500p in 2015 to 121p today. The operator, which also needs to find £12bn to invest into a national rollout of gigabit-capable  “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband technology (here), is thus currently busy restructuring itself and cutting jobs.

Tensions around this began to peak a few months ago after BT announced their intention to re-organise around a smaller number of regional offices, which will mean the closure of some existing sites. The result is that some staff, mostly office workers, were left with having to choose between travelling long distances to a new place of work or taking redundancy.

At present many of their longer-serving workers would still be entitled to a maximum of up to 24 months redundancy pay (this is extremely generous in the modern climate), but toward the end of last week BT confirmed that, from 1st June 2020, it planned to slash this to 12 months.

A number of BT’s staff contacted ISPreview.co.uk to highlight this and to point out that the company’s email appeared to indicate that the new terms had been discussed with the CWU and Prospect, which caused some of them to incorrectly assume that the deal had been agreed with those unions. In reality both unions continue to oppose BT’s changes and the CWU is mid-way through a consultative ballot on industrial action.

Andy Kerr, CWU Deputy General Secretary, said:

“Let me be absolutely clear to members who may been left confused by this somewhat opaque wording. The CWU has only been nominally consulted, and BT is imposing the new severance terms knowing we have rejected them.

In the company’s so-called staff ‘consultation’ no fewer than 73% of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the proposed terms – yet BT is riding roughshod over those concerns and is demonstrably ignoring feedback from its own employees.”

The CWU also goes on to highlight that one “particularly pernicious” element of BT’s new terms is that anyone put “at risk” of redundancy will “effectively be forced into accepting misleadingly named ‘voluntary redundancy terms’ as compulsory redundancy terms will no longer be enhanced, but will be the bare statutory minimum.” The union claims this means BT will have the ability to state publicly that it is not making anyone compulsorily redundant, but those “not accepting voluntary redundancy without a murmur will be hugely financially penalised.”

A BT Group Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“BT is going through a period of immense change and investment for the future. As the market continues to evolve and the needs of our customers change, we’ll need the right skills and capabilities in the business. If we don’t improve our productivity and efficiency, BT Group will fall behind in the highly competitive, highly regulated markets in which we operate.

We also have a root and branch modernisation programme across the business that will create £2bn of annualised savings by 2025 through digitising, automating and simplifying many of our systems and processes. This will result in a smaller number of people in the business in five years’ time, largely by not filling roles as and when they become vacant, but we will prioritise providing retraining and reskilling, learning and redeployment opportunities where we can.

For all colleagues, particularly those who do leave the business, we need a simple, consistent, competitive, and fair set of severance terms that apply equally to all UK colleagues. Today, that is not the case as we currently have at least seven different options. We’ve consulted with colleagues and their unions, we’ve listened to their feedback, before announcing a number of improvements, including improving the terms for voluntary paid leavers and making our enhanced redundancy terms equal for all colleagues. We’ve added additional support for our frontline and part-time colleagues and removed the minimum qualifying period.”

As we’ve said before, BT currently finds itself between a rock and a hard place, with few good options open to it. At the same time the idea of holding strike action at a major national broadband and phone provider, during the global COVID-19 pandemic, seems likely to divide opinions.

As it stands BT appear to be holding their course against pressure from the two unions and thus the prospect of a strike at the UK’s largest telecoms operator has not yet been averted.

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43 Responses
  1. Avatar A_Builder says:

    Slightly tangential but BT are, due to their effective monopoly on some types of comms, an emergency service.

    How do certain elements of UK PLC actually function in the face of a full on strike when infrastructure starts to fail?

    BT needs to reform itself, no question.

    The issue, that was not well expressed anywhere, is that that the generous 24 months payoff was bartered for decreased pensions in the last major round of negotiations.

    Set against that though, the unions also have a vested interest in BT doing well as that is the only way the pension scheme gets topped up. While the Crown Guarantee, which is pretty wishy washy, does offer some comfort, the current reality is that it would just be tossed into the PPS if BT was allowed to fail.

    1. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

      There was a (true) story about a strike long long ago by BT staff (so long ago, they might still have been Post Office staff!) that the reliability of the network went up during the strike and not down – basically a case of no itchy fingers all over the place messing things up!

    2. Avatar A_Builder says:

      Or people opening up PCP’s and disturbing ancient connection?

      At one time the statistics were that a certain % of concomitant damage happened after every installation/fix. Don’t know if that still holds as newer connectors are a lot better.

    3. Avatar Regorimabitbackward says:

      The year was 1987 management tried to run the network after 4 weeks bt was being threatened with legal action by banks for loss of revenue due to card services not able to connect the new computerised system at the stock market had run into trouble pay phones were not working at the end of the street emergency services were facing communication dificuties no new installations had taken place and no engineers had been near the stuff…rose coloured spectacles me thinks… truth is no body won bt ended up paying more in a pay rise than first agreed tried a return to work with no overtime being allowed to work having pre strike sending people home without pay for refusing to work overtime bt public image plummeted all this 2 years after privatisation the engineers never got back the money they lost….I know because I was there… took voluntary redundancy 1994 under the very terms now under discussion talk about history repeating itself blimey

    4. Avatar 125us says:


      Preventative maintenance on electromechanical kit causes a small number of faults, but it also prevents many more future ones. The immediate fault rate during the strike went down, but many exchanges never recovered from that period of no preventative maintenance and suffered call failures and noisy calls through to the end of their lives.

      There’s a different set of influences at play in the access network where the evidence is now clear that intervention should be a last resort – I attended a couple of talks on this hosted by the ITP. Intrusive testing tends to ‘blow’ faults caused by high resistance joints off for an hour or a day or a week until they return. Manually breaking down and remaking connections in cabinets tends to cause more faults than are cleared. Reliability has apparently been greatly improved by just leaving it alone and dealing with faults by allocating a whole new pair of wires from the exchange out to the customer where at all possible.

  2. Avatar FibreBubble says:

    These jobs are not being ‘digitised, automated or simplified’. They are being sent to India where BT are making £35K saving per year per job. They can afford to pay the rates they agreed to only 2 years ago when they dipped into staff pensions out of these savings.

    The vast majority of desk based work involved in UK Fibre build is being done in India. In some cases paid for by UK governemnt. The Indian government would not accept the reverse.

    1. Avatar A_Builder says:

      I’d respectfully suggest that the “Indian Connection” is a major source of problems that are reducing BT’s market share.

      As soon as you are corresponding in Indlish, an incomprehensible language when used in dialogue it is assumed neither party understands the other they just throw words back and forth, you know you heading for a disaster.

      That is why I don’t have a single line or connection left with BT business. Yes, OK some of our other suppliers use OR and BTT for provisioning but I’ve voted with my feet.

    2. Avatar Sunil Sood says:


      I can’t comment about back office roles but I thought BT had onshored all their customer support back in the UK

    3. Avatar A_Builder says:

      The problem is when you get involved with a more intricate technical problem it seems to go all Indian…..

  3. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Shocking, the government might as well nationalise BT for what its become today. Similar to the BBC in many ways.

    1. Avatar 125us says:

      I don’t know what that would achieve, or what you think it would achieve. It would certainly cut investment in broadband because no-one can borrow money more cheaply than governments. It would result, almost certainly, in Liberty and others taking the government to court because their businesses would be ruined overnight.

    2. Avatar Fastman says:


      daft comment really !!!!

  4. Avatar Race to the bottom says:

    So sick of employers taking the Mickey.

    You have an employment contract, then they want to hold you to it when it suits them, but anything that is beneficial to employee they want to change at will!!!

    Cut to 12 months, then a bit down the line wheel out same excuses to cut again.

    Nowadays you reach 35, and it gets harder to get another job as employers preferring young just out of education that they can brainwash because of lack of experience and will believe management bullsh** when they join work force. I’m lucky to have a short supply skill for my job, but I had already left a previous job because the dubious French organisation rebid for a customer contract, bid too cheaply, then wanted to offshore everybody to India and Romania for cheap labour. They didn’t want to pay redundancy so tried to de-skill people by not giving any training or new projects, and then tried to overwork everyone by fixing all the mistakes of offshore. Three years down the line, that company still hasn’t got rid of people through redundancy except paltry voluntary offers, and many left or died due to stress. The contract has now gone to pot because the offshore staff simply can’t do the work despite knowledge transfer from UK.

    I had done 25 years service and promoted several times before that company took over, and had to walk away from my redundancy because they said they weren’t going to pay it to everyone. The internal bullying of staff into roles that are completely not similar to their current one or trying to make them leave by making it as difficult as possible to put up with continues.

    New contracts may be changed, but existing contracts should be honoured. It’s management that don’t give a damn except their own gravy train and if pushed through is simply a race to the bottom.

    1. Avatar Centre-right says:

      The idea that younger generations are less expectant of career development than previous ones, going back to Boomers or early Gen X, is laughable.

      If longer standing staff are so easy to replace they have evidently been complacent given despite all this experience they have nothing to offer.

      BT keep this up they’ll start looking like a private sector company rather than a relic of a jobs for life, public sector monopoly.

      Every sympathy with those impacted but this isn’t a race to the bottom but one closer to the higher end of the middle. This is a really long way short of the gig economy that actually forms the bottom.

      Welcome to the real, competitive world. Reform or have the well funded and more competitive CityFibre, Liberty, etc, eat your lunch.

  5. Avatar LIZZY says:

    Well, as current and past CEO’S of BT are multi millionaires and pocketing vast amounts of shares when they are dirt cheap…they are not so concerned about workers welfare.

    1. Avatar FibreBubble says:

      No previous CEOs have made people compulsory redundant. There is no need for it.

      This management started by targeting one woman in her 50s. With 30 years service. Absolutely no need to make her redundant in a firm where volunteers would have gone.

      This management have failed. Failed the shareholders. Now they fail the staff. It is the board that should be got rid of.

    2. Avatar A_Builder says:

      The trouble is that the present board are faced with an impending crisis.

      It is looking like a speeded up car crash at the moment.

      The choices they have are not great:-
      a) carry on as they are in the certainty that the car will crash; or
      b) try some drastic high speed manoeuvres that *might* avoid disaster.

      If FTTP investment had been started 8 years ago, as was planned by Liv Garfield, then BT would not be in the mess it is in now.

      Trouble is that BT is no longer the monopoly supplier of last mile. Alt nets are there and well funded and if BT/OR does not move at speed the % of the country that BT/OR is able to sell to will decrease as the Alt Nets become more established and the market fragments. OK we should all acknowledge that massive efforts are being made by BT/OR to build at pace which is great and long overdue.

      I do agree that the previous management have been asleep at the wheel and more interested in ventures foreign that in upgrading the domestic network.

      So the only thing you can do is to slim down the operation and try and CAPEX your way out of the hole with some of the savings.

      And as always the biggest problem is that the people who want to go are ones with the best transferable skills who *know* they can either retire or get another job in heat beat. Which is not great for business as the last thing you need is a skills drain at the same time as a ramp up.

      So quite a complex problem for the top floor of BT Central.

      And a knotty problem for the union as to what is really in the best interests of members and retirees which is unfortunately not quite the same thing in this instance.

    3. Avatar Fastman says:


      this a ridiculous comment

      If FTTP investment had been started 8 years ago, as was planned by Liv Garfield, then BT would not be in the mess it is in now.

      No it would be in a biggger one as as would have deployed significantly less coverage either in its commercial footprint or needed to be coveed under BDUK and cost a load more and there would be a lot more people not on superfast (>30 m/bps)

      CBT and the way FTTP is delivered now is massively more cost efficient than the manifold and splitter way that BT stopped delivering (back in 2012/2013)

    4. Avatar A_Builder says:


      Maybe BT/OR would have learned from experience if they got in with it?

      I don’t think the people who run OR are stupid and incremental improvements would have been made following commercials.

      I accept that the old manifold splitter method was largely doctrinal in following the ‘clean sheet of paper’ approach.

      I’m perplexed that you think that using FTTP where it made sense would be causing issues as even the old methodology could be upgraded to 1G.

      I never said that BDUK FTTC would/should have been stopped just that in the original plan some areas where FTRC wasn’t going to work very well were to go straight to FTTP. The Garfield plan envisaged both technologies being used where appropriate.

  6. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    If the pension raiding agreement 2 years ago clearly stated “we will never change this” then surely BT is placing itself in a breach of contract with its employees then?

    Guess it’s up to the unions to argue this by threatening strike action.

    And who can blame them?

    1. Avatar A_Builder says:

      I don’t think anyone blames anyone for trying to stick to an agreement. That is the essence of an agreement after all!

      If it is as you say, then that is ridiculous. An agreement like that should have had a sunset clause.

      The bigger issue was the old management simply kicking cans down the road, so they could focus on non core activities.

  7. Avatar IT Support Consultant says:

    Recent re-org and change to job roles and bands now means that the management job above me is the same band as me and the rest of our team are currently on.

    If I had went for the job last year I would have been bumped up a grade and got a healthy car allowance, private medical insurance, free phone line.

    If I want to go for the next step up the ladder now I get no pay rise, no extra benefits, nothing, but all the extra stress of the higher level role.

    I have nearly 20 years service – told last week that even if I move sideways to another role in the same band I will have to sign up to the new contract terms which means losing around 10 days leave per year and length of sick leave being slashed in half! (Still seeking clarification on this as initially we had been told moving within the band retains your current ‘grandfather’ contractual rights.)

    So no incentive / reward to seek a promotion and potentially penalised for moving to another role within your current band. Stuck where I am until retirement or made redundant!

  8. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Replace all your long serving staff with a younger (more easy to “accept continual change” core who are far less expecting of career development), meanwhile long standing staff have annual cutbacks eroding their agreed contractual rights and only offer promotion with increased workload but the same salary….So they are pushed out or leave.

    hmmm I’d be taking that view up with the union as a case for age discrimination.

    1. Avatar GenXer says:

      Pretty dim and incorrect view that younger people will be expecting less career development.

      In my experience they have no problem with moving employers to get that development.

      The days of spending 40 years with a single company, unless you end up CEO, are over in part because people are way more ambitious.

      There are way more changes coming. Most exchanges are going away. FTTP requires half the maintenance.

      All this with loads of altnets, whose employees will be on mostly pretty standard private sector contracts, trying to take business away.

      Barring BT encouraging them to raise their costs and, in turn, prices, there’s only one option.

  9. Avatar George doors says:

    Not only are they reducing redundancy pay and cutting thousands of jobs via hubs as previously reported, but for those looking for another internal job they now have to accept a new contract that increases hours, reduces holidays, halves sick leave, removes all previously earned benefits such as subsidised telephone and broadband packages, to name but a few.

    BT and openreach used to be great to work for, now they’re a truly awful organisation run by HR.

  10. Avatar Shaun Taylor says:

    I’m out of the company on Monday 30Nov , no providing retraining and reskilling, learning and redeployment opportunities where we can.

    for me …..Goodbye after 40 years service

    1. Avatar Regorimabitbackward says:

      Good luck Shaun believe me there is a life outside bt

  11. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Good luck Shaun! What a terrible way to have to leave a company you’ve given 40 years too! At the very least they could have offered staff departing the company external retraining/reskilling, just an appalling way to treat long standing staff.

    1. Avatar Regorimabitbackward says:

      Me thinks you’ve missed the point here I would suggest that what Shaun is saying that after 40 years service he’s looking forward to getting out and not having to retrain or re skill just enjoy retirement perhaps

    2. Avatar GenXer says:

      He gave them nothing. He worked, they paid him.

      It was evidently pretty good given he stayed for 40 years and isn’t a senior manager.

      You were saying about career ambition?

  12. Avatar Michael Moore says:

    BT will be very different in 10 years. The company will be broken up just to raise money to keep going. But ultimately the business is a bit of a mess. When the value of the business when broken into bits is much more valuable than the whole you know something is very wrong.
    If contracts within the group are more generous than the Altnets are offering then you can see the commercial reason for BT needing to change.
    But I think these are the dying gasps of a business that will be broken up soon.
    What we need and have in this country are good leaders than can build good long term businesses.

    1. Avatar Regorimabitbackward says:

      I agree 100% companies to day have to be more concerned with profit rather than provide a service reduce overall costs move operations abroad put work out to contractors who have to build to a price not a standard employ more agency staff who don’t get the same workers rights Sir Norman Tebbit said “the government made more out of a 51% privatised BT than it did out of a publicly owned GPO” says it all do you think?

    2. Avatar GenXer says:

      You mean companies are expected to actually make money rather than lose it and expect whomever to make up the difference?

      The taxpayer isn’t going to subsidise BT beyond the various BDUK/Gigabit schemes. The very well funded competition are going to try and run efficiently, not as an adult creche for their staff giving them jobs for life.

      Welcome to the private sector. It’s unpleasant but it’s where we are.
      What solution do you suggest?

  13. Avatar Dave Schuster says:

    12 months redundancy pay is still very generous compared to other companies and what BT are required to pay. Also in many parts of BT, it’s been 12 month leavers pay for a long time, including for me when I left. Times change, decades ago people were leaving on very generous terms, but it’s not sustainable. BT are in trouble, the share price has plummeted and they need to make decisions that will not be popular.

    1. Avatar Regorimabitbackward says:

      I do agree but ask yourself why has the share price plummeted poor workmanship or bad leadership? surely it’s down to management to get workers onside and work out a long term strategy and workers for their part have to understand the need for change BT is a communications company after all

  14. Avatar Telecom Guy says:

    The scandal and TRUTH here is that BT are cutting redundancy from 2 years cap to statutory MINIMUM. People defending this are either callous or ill informed.

    The 12 month cap is on voluntary release. So if you find yourself in a redundancy pool and want to exercise your legal right to consultation or look for another internal job you will lose tens of thousands of pounds if not successful.

    Bare in mind BT often won’t even give your matrix score until final redundancy meeting.. PEOPLE HAVE NO IDEA IF THEY HAVE A CHANCE TO STAY OR NOT!Its a terrible way to treat people. They know this, just don’t care.


    Bullies are running BT today. Plain and simple.

    Put the 12 month cap on redundancy pay and half the problem is solved. This ain’t about saving money, it us about control and self enrichment.

    If they were fighting to survive you could understand. But they millions for board bonuses and billions for football rights.

    Their priority is not investing in uk network, nor in supporting their key workers. This is a fat cat hit and run job, drastic measures to boost share price of which many bought millions at rock bottom prices.

    1. Avatar Fastman says:

      not helpful comment and not a great understanding about why sport is a poviltal part of jigsaw – sport drives content and bandwith – most people now are about quad play which is calls, broadband, TV and mobile and wanting to do all of that with one provider – sport drove sky into the Fibre market so sport enabled more content – .

      Fibre and investment in the network as core 0– think the business will have invested more that 5 – 6m or more (prib much more if you include the recent FTTP announcemement) on fibre network since 2012 based on 2.5bn commercial, the BDUK match and awell as now the commercial FTTP build

    2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      I agree with you entirely Telecom guy.

    3. Avatar Telecom guy says:


      What is not helpful? This is the truth.

      I don’t agree it is morally right to undermine peoples statutory rights by stealing their redundancy if they try to stay; even if you really like football and want to have it all via BT – I would suggest this does not make it A-OK

      If you want to cheerlead this leadership lets hope nobody mentions the share price has been hovering lower than when they were first privatised – not adjusted for inflation.

      Key workers should be protected before corporate failures get their bonuses or before those interested in football get the great win of paying an additional subscription…

    4. Avatar GenXer says:

      The investment in FTTP delivering about as fast as it can given the labour restraints disagrees with you.

      If the business can manage without these people they aren’t key workers. As more exchanges move full fibre the maintenance load will drop and more of these key workers will become redundant.

      Formerly key workers. The full fibre is making the copper guys redundant and either BT build the fibre or have CityFibre and others take market share.

      If you have other suggestions on how BT could do better in this landscape please fill us in.

  15. Avatar Dave Schuster says:

    @ Telecom Guy, I’ve not seen anything to say that BT are cutting redundancy from 2 years cap to statutory minimum. If that is true, then I agree that people would be right to be angry under the circumstances. All the reports I’ve seen say a reduction from 2 years to 1, are you able to quote otherwise ?

  16. Avatar Telecom guy says:


    From article:

    One particularly pernicious element of BT new severance terms is that, after June 1 next year, anyone put ‘at risk’ of redundancy will effectively be forced into accepting misleadingly named ‘voluntary redundancy terms’ as compulsory redundancy terms will no longer be enhanced, but will be the bare statutory minimum.

    “By doing this BT will have the ability to state publicly that it is not making anyone compulsorily redundant,” Andy explains. “Any true notion of ‘voluntarism’ will have been trounced because anyone not accepting VR without a murmur will be hugely financially penalised.”

  17. Avatar RAY says:

    one or two years that’s great
    Been on 47 years myself, been told 4 weeks money to go now
    Thank you Openreach/BT

    I Started this job with nothing and will be leaving with nothing

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