BT faces mounting criticism over its employee job and pay cuts

BT Network Operations Centre at Adastral Park. Picture: Jessica Hill

BT Network Operations Centre at Adastral Park. Picture: Jessica Hill - Credit: Archant

BT is cutting 13,000 jobs over the next three years, including some from its Adastral Park base in Suffolk, and Prospect, the union for BT managers and professionals, has accused it of introducing restructuring changes in a “brutal” way, “leaving many fearing for their future”.

BT - innovation pods, Adastral Park. Picture: Jessica Hill

BT - innovation pods, Adastral Park. Picture: Jessica Hill - Credit: Archant

BT, which employs 3,000 people at Adastral Park in Martlesham, is reducing its workforce by 12%, as it seeks to slim down its management and back-office roles and help it to reduce costs by £1.5bn

Prospect has called on the company to urgently rethink the way it is rolling out major changes to pay and staffing structures across the organisation, and to listen to staff concerns.

Prospect national secretary Noel McClean has just written to Drew Matthews, BT’s director of reward, employee relations and pensions, ahead of new BT chief executive, Philip Jansen, taking up the reins on February 1.

Prospect wants BT to resume intensive talks with the union and produce a “best and final offer” by mid-February, so that the union can then consult members in a ballot on whether or not to accept the changes.

Noel McClean said: “BT is bringing in the changes too fast, and on a piecemeal basis across different business units, before negotiations with the union have ended. Prospect did secure some improvements in earlier talks, but these don’t go far enough.

“Our members are the first to want BT to succeed and don’t oppose change in principle. But the brutal way this is happening leaves many individuals fearing for their future. Before Christmas we asked the company to pause the process while further talks were held but BT rejected this.

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“People are baffled that their years of loyalty and dedication are being met by pay cuts or threats of dismissal. You do not get successful organisational change without the support of staff. We hope the new CEO will take heed of our concerns.”

Prospect is seeking a resumption of intensive talks, and a final offer that it can put to members by mid-February.

It claims that the proposed new salary ranges are too low and too broad.

“BT is applying “individual exceptions”; and individual line managers will get more discretion – the opposite of a transparent pay system,” it says.

Many hundreds of people face a potential pay cut as their role is reorganised into the new staffing structure.

According to Prospect, employees whose pay is currently “above range” face the choice of taking an immediate pay cut to keep their old terms and conditions, applying for a new role in the company or leaving with a settlement agreement. Those rejecting all three options face the threat of dismissal without compensation or being fired and rehired on less favourable terms.

Mr McClean highlighted a Prospect snap survey of BT members at the end of 2018, in which 85% stated pay clarity is “very important” to them, with a further 8% deeming it “important”. An overwhelming 97% supported the union view that the proposals so far “are unacceptable and need improving”.

BT has not responded to requests to comment on the union’s findings.

The job cuts come despite BT Openreach embarking on a massive recruitment drive this week for more than 3,000 trainee engineers, mainly to deliver the company’s ‘Fibre First’ programme, which is bringing faster, more reliable and future proof Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology to millions.

More than 395 trainee engineers will be hired across the East of England. The new roles will see trainees join the country’s largest team of telecoms experts working to expand, upgrade, maintain and install services over Openreach’s national broadband network.