The CWU has expressed its shock and disbelief at BT Enterprise’s refusal to lift the threat of compulsory redundancies at a time when the fast-escalating coronavirus crisis looks set to test the country at large – and inevitably BT Group as a whole – to the limit.
Well before the monumental threat posed by Covid 19 was outlined in stark terms by the Prime Minister in the first of his daily emergency broadcasts to the nation – the union wrote to the business formally requesting it to reconsider the wisdom of placing loyal workers in scope for compulsory redundancy at a time when urgent contingency planning is taking place over how to maintain critical staffing levels.
The letter from CWU assistant secretary Allan Eldred to management read: “
We understand that the current situation is without precedent and that nobody knows the full extent of the effect the virus may have on the business and on individuals. What is known, however is that there will be a need for as many people as possible to remain healthy and be available to ensure that the company can continue to operate effectively during these unprecedented times.
“The CWU is therefore writing to formally propose that all Individual Consultation meetings regarding compulsory redundancy in BT Enterprise be suspended and that any compulsory redundancy notices already issued be withdrawn. We also propose that, in as
far as is practicable, management and the union continue to seek out alternative roles to avoid the need for any compulsory redundancies, once this immediate crisis has passed.”
Despite the union taking pains to stress that, notwithstanding its vehement opposition to compulsory redundancies as a matter of principle, the proposal was “made in the spirit of wanting to work collaborately with the business to ensure that service to BT’s customers continues to operate effectively, while at the same time any additional strain on individuals is avoided”, late on Tuesday afternoon the CWU’s request was rejected.
Expressing his astonishment and disgust at the outcome, CWU assistant secretary Allan Eldred was withering in his assessment of the subliminal message that has been disseminated to employees across BT Group at a time when the company desperately needs their co-operation and flexibility to minimise the disruption that coronavirus will undoubtedly cause.
“It really does defy belief that Enterprise management is either oblivious or unbothered about how this decision will be interpreted by staff across BT Group,” he stresses.
“The CWU has long argued that the compulsory redundancies being proposed in Enterprise are utterly unnecessary, and that any staff surpluses could easily be addressed by time-honoured redeployment and VR mechanisms that the union has co-operated with for years.
“Our appeal for the needless CR programme currently underway in Enterprise to be suspended in the current extraordinary situation was made in good faith – and to be rebutted in this way at a time of national and international crisis is nothing less than extraordinary.
“Across BT Group the very employees that the company needs to fulfil its public service obligations at this time of national crisis are seeing a handful of colleagues lined up for sacrifice at the altar of some perverse notion that making unnecessary compulsory redundancies is somehow good for business reasons.
“The CWU’s efforts to get the division to step back from the brink represented pure common sense at a time of national and international crisis – and, conversely, the division’s rebuttal would seem to indicate that the key decision makers in BT Enterprise are on another planet.”