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BT Pause Redundancies as CWU Delay Ballot on National Strike

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 (5:15 pm) - Score 2,280
openreach engineer uk team and vans in snow

The threat of a major national UK strike by a significant chunk of BT’s workforce appears to have subsided, if perhaps only temporarily, after the two sides involved took steps to calm the situation and re-engage in negotiations. But the thaw in hostilities may only last until early June, unless an agreement can be reached.

Back in March 2021 the Communications Workers Union (CWU), which represents around 40,000 of BT Group’s staff (BT, Openreach and EE), announced that they had “taken the decision to move to an official national industrial action ballot” for all employees after failing to resolve various points of disagreement.

Shortly after that the operator then proposed to offer around 59,000 frontline UK workers a “special bonus” of £1,500 to recognise their efforts in helping to keep customers and the country connected to broadband, phone and mobile services during the pandemic, which the CWU immediately characterised as a “bribe to not vote for strike action” (here).

The CWU’s Gripes with BT Include:
➤ Mass closure of many sites.
➤ A potential threat to voluntarism in leaving the business.
➤ A piecemeal approach to closure which lessens the chance of re-deployment.
➤ Undermining and ignoring your agreements that protect your pension and voluntary redundancy terms.
➤ Drastically reducing the pay, terms & conditions for multiple roles and grades.

The situation appeared to be heading for an ugly confrontation on the picket lines, but the two sides have now taken some steps to reduce the tension. In short, BT has agreed to pause its redundancy programme and, in response, the Communications Workers Union (CWU) will pause triggering the statutory industrial action ballot process. But the pause may only last until early June.

Andy Kerr, CWU Deputy General Secretary, said:

“This is a small victory … We’re around the table now and we will work 24/7 over the next three weeks to make sure we get the right deal for all of you. We want a negotiated settlement, but if that fails, we will ballot in early June for industrial action.”

The CWU is seeking significant progress in the new round of negotiations, but BT seems unlikely to completely halt its wider restructuring efforts for the long-term. Meanwhile, the idea of holding strike action at a major communications’ provider during a public health crisis seems likely to divide opinions.

A spokesperson for BT said: “Both BT and the CWU believe that continuing to talk is the best way to resolve our points of difference.”

Leave a Comment
10 Responses
  1. Squidgy says:

    The company only proposed a £1000 bonus this year,they haven’t confirmed anything. The £500 was already agreed to be paid in shares for meeting performance targets,held in trust for 3years and subject to tax for another 2 years, so many who leave either by retirement, voluntary or compulsory redundancy won’t see that .

    1. Fastman says:

      that not correct about the shares — it depends on how you leave the business

    2. Lee Bateman says:

      Can confirm that I was one of the 1st made redundant in Sept last year and I got the shares upon leaving.

  2. Nobody says:

    Just love that photo! “All you guys stand on the back step, will make a great photo!” Never-mind the massive trip hazard when you jump down…… :/

    1. Alex says:

      Bet you’re fun at parties.

    2. Mike says:

      I don’t think he gets invited to parties.

  3. Nobody says:

    OSHA parties……

  4. PJ says:

    Good for the CWU and its members, I wish they represented the rest of us as opposed to Prospect. I’m a manager grade but definitely not a manager and with all the changes going on internally, it’s clear that Prospect have achieved very little in protecting the workforce. The general conversations seem to be, BT propose X, prospect discuss with members, BT reject and go though there proposals.

    1. Andy Pinnock says:

      Prospect the managers union are just as useful as a chocolate teapot and that’s no exaggeration seriously.

  5. David Delmar says:

    The so called bonus is NON pensionable is taxed and NI so is only worth £680 and £620 for higher tax payers . Most would prefer a pay rise to any type of bonus schemes as this is pensionable and has a far bigger impact on members pensions . The £500 in shares was pre agreed way before Covid raised its ugly head and has nothing to do with Covid BT still made £2Billion profit but says can’t afford .
    It also took away members right to share save but Jensen still brought £2million rich take take at the expense of its workers .

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