“We’re gearing up for an industrial action ballot. Now is the time to fight and now is the time to unite,” were the stirring words of Andy Kerr to thousands of BT members of our union in last night’s ‘record-breaking’ CWU facebook live broadcast.
And our general secretary Dave Ward pledged that the whole membership of this great union stands shoulder to shoulder with our BT members as they embark on their most important struggle for many years.
With compulsory redundancies having been made and now spreading across the company, long-standing agreements being eroded, job security rapidly becoming a thing of the past and the company refusing to negotiate, our deputy general secretary (T&FS) set out the stark reality that the union has no choice but to now actively prepare for action.
In a blistering attack on the hypocrisy of the company’s senior leadership, Andy reminded the nationwide audience that “every worker in BT is a key worker and you’ve all done a tremendous job,” praising members for their heroic efforts on the frontline during this terrible pandemic, but then angrily denouncing the arrogant bosses at the top of the business for their callous announcements of job cuts and lay-offs – citing Tuesday’s awful news from Aberdeen, where 97 loyal and hard-working members of staff were suddenly told that their jobs were ‘at risk’.
“We’ll all stand by our members in Aberdeen – and what happened to the Aberdeen 97 today could happen to anyone of you tomorrow,” he warned, as he called for maximum unity, strengthened organisation and discipline and determination in the hard struggle ahead.
Setting out some of the practical measure that the union is putting into practice, CWU president Karen Rose talked of the urgent need to update branch membership records and ensure that data and other details are fully accurate – because it is vital that the forthcoming national industrial action ballot is fully compliant with the law of the land.
And Karen also unveiled plans to set up regional and branch campaign teams and co-ordinating groups of activists to ensure that everyone is fully up-to-speed at all levels of the union.
“At HQ, we’ve got a National Strategy Team meeting weekly, and the regional teams will play a key role too – making sure information and briefings go out to all members,” she explained.
At local level, representatives and officers will be helped to set up information platforms ensuring that messages are spread rapidly via all available media – including all of the various ‘socials’, as well as key messages to local press if necessary.
“Our members are the most important people,” she stressed, adding that it is at branch level where this close engagement with members at work will be most important and that our branch officials and representatives must find every way they can to engage as closely as possible during this campaign period.
A key theme of the campaign is ‘Count Me In’ and as well as being a positive message in itself, it will be a valuable means of building strong local networks of activists who can support and sustain this struggle all the way through a national ballot and subsequent industrial action.
One of the highlights of the broadcast was Dave Ward’s short, sharp speech, which undoubtedly gave a boost to every watching BT member, with his inspiring words of solidarity.
“You’ve done a fantastic job working in BT. You’ve kept our country connected through your efforts,” he told the audience.
“And my message to you tonight is very simple – we cannot stand by and allow BT’s plans to destroy your future.
“Get behind your fellow members – get behind your union and, together, we will deliver a better future for our members.”
As the briefing came to a close, our union’s head of communications Chris Webb announced that, with almost 5,000 participants, it had been “the biggest T&FS facebook live we’ve ever had in this union!” and he warmly thanked everyone for taking part – the speakers and the members for tuning in.
In his closing comments, Andy Kerr also thanked members for their involvement and for their expressions of support for the union’s ‘Count Me In’ challenge.
“I’m really happy with the amount of members who’ve already signed up to actively support their union and this campaign,” he said.
“This is a time for uniting, to come together. Get out there tomorrow in the workplace and let’s take this forward.”
· Further information detailing all the union’s key demands on our ‘Count Me In’ campaign video