For decades, industrial relations in BT Group have been stable. The strength of the union, coupled with senior management who wanted to work with us, created a mutually beneficial situation where the company grew and the workforce benefitted.
Now, we face a new leadership at the top of BT Group who are significantly changing industrial relations. Our members have been subject to an unpalatable attack on their pay, terms and conditions as well as future job security. When facing compulsory redundancies, we have no choice but to organise our membership and coordinate the biggest trade union campaign the telecommunications sector has ever seen.
Before setting out more about our campaign, it’s crucial that people understand the same workers BT want to make redundant are those who have kept the country connected during this period. We know that our NHS and other groups of workers have, rightly, secured a higher profile during the last few months – but the national shift to working at home under Covid-19 has only been possible because CWU members across the UK have kept the networks running.
Put yourselves in our members’ shoes: they’ve worked every single day of the pandemic, their working environments have changed, they’ve put themselves at risk. And now, the reward for hundreds of our members is the prospect of the sack. This union cannot and will not accept that.
It’s clear this is also the tip of the iceberg. If we do not deliver a massive campaign – and, if needs be, a yes vote in an industrial action ballot – then the company will widen its redundancy strategy to a level which would devastate the workforce.
Our ‘Count Me In’ campaign is designed to bring together our whole membership to fight back against these attacks. Running a national campaign of this magnitude isn’t easy when we can’t hold workplace meetings or mass gatherings, but we’ve got off to a solid start. Over 30,000 people watched the live campaign launch and thousands more have pledged to back us. We’re holding virtual meetings in every corner of the UK, updating our databases and getting the membership battle ready.
If, reading this article, you’re wondering how you can help, firstly it would be fantastic if you could use the #CountMeIn hashtag on social media and show our members they have your support. It would also be effective if you could contact your local MP and ask them to write to BT Group demanding they step back from their plans and hold genuine negotiations with the union. Finally, if you see our members out and about – a simple ‘thank you and good luck’ would mean a lot.
My last message is to BT Group: over the years we’ve made tremendous progress together. By abandoning this direction, you risk an industrial action ballot and ultimately strike action if we cannot reach agreement. Our union will not stand by and see the workers who have built BT made compulsorily redundant as shareholders line their pockets and BT Sport presenters receive gold-plated contracts. Our door is open for genuine negotiations.
Our membership is saying #CountMeIn in their thousands. You ignore that at your peril.