Coronavirus: BT Pledges No Job Losses During Pandemic

BT Group has announced a number of pledges during the Coronavirus pandemic and said it was working hard to keep “the UK connected, safe and working.”

The former UK incumbent promised that there would be no job losses during the pandemic, and also warned Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that it would be scaling back the build out of fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) and G.fast (tech to deliver speeds of up to 500 Mbps) during the national crisis.

The seriousness of the crisis was underlined when the Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to intensive care on Monday evening as his Covid-19 conditions worsened and he developed breathing difficulties. Last month BT chief executive Philip Jansen confirmed he had been diagnosed with Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and had gone into self-isolation.

Bandwidth worries

Unlike the Prime Minister, it seems that Jansen is on the mend at the moment after he wrote a letter to all BT employees.

Two weeks ago BT Openreach warned that its engineers would avoid entering customer premises for new broadband connections, in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

BT Open Reach Rebrand. London. Picture Steve O’Connell 21-06-17

That came amid concerns about bandwidth during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This has led to major streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and Disney to lower the quality of their video content to ease bandwidth concerns expressed by some EU officials.

Since the public emergency caused by the pandemic, BT has maintained that there is plenty of capacity in the UK’s networks.

Howard Watson, chief technology and information officer for BT Group, has previously stated that the carrier “has more than enough capacity” in its UK network.

BT has also reportedly told ISPs it is scaling back future build plans for FTTP and G.fast, as its engineers focus on keeping the network operational.

Ensuring capacity

And the letter from Jansen stressed that BT is committed to “keeping the UK connected, safe and working.”

He said that during the pandemic “BT is currently playing a critical role in powering the UK’s digital infrastructure, as well as keeping customers connected globally.”

He said despite unprecedented demand for connectivity, BT’s fixed broadband network and EE, “are both performing strongly.”

“We are prioritising support for critical services, specifically the NHS, from connecting the new Nightingale Hospitals to innovating to enable isolated patients to speak with their loved ones,” said Jansen. “This is why many of our frontline people – engineers and customer service colleagues – are designated as key workers by the UK Government.”

He also said that BT is working with Government on initiatives to support the country’s most vulnerable people and on the provision of data to guide public health policy.

No redundancies

Jansen also committed the group to “no job losses related to the coronavirus crisis for the foreseeable future”.

“To reflect this vital role, BT announces today that, whilst ongoing transformation programmes will continue, no employee will lose their job in the foreseeable future – at least the next three months – as a direct result of changing trading conditions brought about by coronavirus,” said Jansen.

“Throughout the same period, BT will continue to pay all employees’ salaries in full and – in line with its commitment to maximise support to the UK’s national effort – will not put any staff on publicly-funded ‘furlough’.”

BT also said that to recognise these frontline key workers, who are doing so much to keep the UK connected through the crisis, BT has decided to offer an annual pay increase of 1.5 percent effective from 1 July 2020 to its team members (non-managerial staff) in the UK.

At the same time, BT has decided not to make an annual pay increase to its managers in 2020/21.

There is also a reconfirmation of the award to all employees of £500 worth of BT shares in June, and Philip Jansen has pledged to donate his salary for at least the next six months to the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 appeal and to affected small businesses in his local community.

“We are currently supporting thousands of colleagues who are unable to work; have protected the jobs of 400 new engineers who cannot currently be trained; and are reskilling and redeploying many of our 4,200 retail staff to provide services to some of our most vulnerable customers,” said BT.

“BT is stepping up, standing by the country in this time of need and standing by our people who are working tirelessly to keep everyone connected, safe and working,” said Philip Jansen. “I have been extremely proud of the commitment shown by BT colleagues to support our customers in the last few weeks and want to recognise that.”

“This is an unprecedented situation and I want to give our people some certainty about the months ahead,” said Jansen. “This period requires sacrifices from us all, and I want our people to know we are all in this together.”

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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