CWU Action Inevitable If BT Break-Up Proposals Are Implemented

CWU conference this week delivered a stark warning to the Government and Ofcom if they come down in favour of the structural separation of BT from Openreach.

The full wrath of the CWU will come crashing down upon them said delegates.

Reference was also made in the debate to Tory MP Grant Shapps' inacurate report into Broadband services which was previously reported on this website.

CWU News reports from Conference:

CWU Conference delegates unanimously agreed that any proposal to either sell off Openreach or turn Openreach into a BT subsidiary would be  “opposed by all means necessary, up to and including industrial action”.

On-going speculation that Ofcom may be contemplating some form of structural separation under its ongoing Strategic Review of Telecoms provoked an angry response in Bournemouth this week, with deputy general secretary Andy Kerr pledging that “we will not sit back and let BT be broken up”.

“Let’s be clear,” he told the union’s Telecoms & Financial Services Conference: “ If Ofcom, the Government or anyone else for that matter decides to separate Openreach from the rest of the company we will ballot for industrial action the length and breadth of the country.”

Lambasting the blatantly self-seeking demands of some of BT’s main rivals for BT to be broken up, Andy dismissed their arguments that such an outcome would bring more competition, more network investment and better quality of service.

“The reality is the UK already has one of the most competitive communications markets in the world,” he stressed. “And when it comes to investment, BT is putting money into fixed networks, including in harder to reach parts of the country where no other major operator is willing to take the risk.

BT can do this because of its size, scale and access to capital, but breaking the business up would completely undermine this commitment. It would bring years of disruption and market uncertainty, jeopardising the rollout of broadband in rural areas and deprived urban areas where the business case is weak.

It would threaten jobs, terms and conditions and pensions for our members in BT. And not only that, because it would also threaten the jobs of our members in other companies like Sky and TalkTalk that rely on the BT network to deliver their own services.

That’s why we’ve been making written submissions and talking to Ofcom and Labour MPs about the dangers of a BT break-up. We’ve told them how damaging it would be for the communications infrastructure in this country, and we’ve made the case as to why only an integrated BT can deliver the investment, the jobs and the skills needed to build a world-class digital network for the whole of the UK.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there from BT’s competitors and from some MP’s including Tory MP Grant Shapps, who produced a nonsensical report full of factual inaccuracies calling for the forced sell-off of Openreach from BT.

We need to cut through this and bring some clarity for MPs and the wider public about why an integrated BT is best for the UK.”

While Ofcom made the welcome announcement in February that breaking up BT wasn’t its first option, the regulator went on to say that it would fall back on structural separation if the current model of functional separation can’t be strengthened to bring more autonomy for Openreach.

The CWU believes that any form of separation would involve much of the risk associated with full separation - with serious implications for not only for the 32,000 employees of Openreach but also potentially for those in other parts of BT as well.

Proposing the motion that has now committed the union to fight any such development “by all means necessary”, Patsy Slaven from Birmingham, Black Country & Worcester branch insisted it was vital that a clear message was sent  to Ofcom and the Government that the CWU will fight tooth and nail any attempt to make Openreach a “semi-detached component of BT”.

“Separating Openreach from BT would directly threaten job security and the hard fought for, and hard won, terms and conditions of our members,” she said.

Bobby Kelly of Scotland No 1 insisted it was vital the CWU campaigns loud and clear to expose the dangers of BT break-up, while Angela Teeling of Merseyside & South West Lancs branch accused Ofcom of “overstepping its remit”.

Ian Tomlinson of Manchester Combined argued that the involvement of powerful vested interests means that the CWU has to lobby hard to ensure that MPs are left in no doubt as to what is at stake.

Source: CWU News

See also: CWU Slams “Ill-Judged” BT Break-Up Demand From MPs That Threatens Future Of Broadband In UK


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