BT Reaches Union Agreement Over Modernisation

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Threat of strike action removed, after BT Group reaches agreement with its largest union, the Communication Workers Union

BT Group has reached an agreement with its largest trade union, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) over its modernisation plans over the coming years.

The union represents 40,000 of BT staff, and the agreement means that damaging strike action is no longer on the table at the carrier.

This is not the first time that BT has reached agreement with the CMU to advert strike action.

In 2010 for example, BT reached an agreement for “precedented” three-year pay rise worth more than 9 percent, after the same union had threatened strike action.

Strike threat

And now eleven years later and BT has once again reached an agreement with the CWU to avoid strike action.

This time around the Communication Workers Union (CWU) was upset with BT’s modernisation plans, which prompted the threat of the first national strike at the former UK incumbent since 1987 over a row about planned job cuts and site closures.

In March the CWU announced due to failure to resolve a number of disagreements with the UK carrier, it had taken the decision to ballot members over possible strike action.

Shortly after the announcement, BT said that almost 60,000 frontline staff would receive a special bonus of £1,500 in recognition of their work during the coronavirus pandemic keeping the UK’s communication channels working.

The CWU at the time reportedly felt this payment was nothing more than a bride for staff not to vote for a strike, according to ISPreview.

Union agreement

But now both sides have agreed a new set of principles, covering areas such as pay and redundancy, that “will ensure our colleagues continue to be treated fairly and with respect as we focus on growth, simplifying customer journeys, reducing the number of systems we have and transforming our offices into future fit workplaces,” the carrier told Silicon UK via email.

“As we expand our full fibre broadband and 5G mobile networks, our products and services are helping to power the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic,” said BT. “Our frontline colleagues play a vital role in keeping our customers and the country connected, which is why reaching this agreement with the CWU is critical.”

The two sides have agreed on the following areas:

  • Pay (BT will implement a pay increase for team members next year);
  • ‘Better Workplace Programme’ (BT agreed to look at the timing and location of some of the sites it is proposing to close in order to minimise the impact on its people);
  • Redundancy (BT said that once its proposed modernisation programme is complete, as much as possible, job losses will be achieved through natural attrition as around 10,000 staff choose to leave BT a year. The carrier will also consider steps to avoid compulsory redundancy where it reasonably can).

“As we implement our plans to build a better BT for the future, how we get there is every bit as important as the detail of our plans,” said the carrier. “Reaching this agreement is the culmination of intensive negotiations between BT and the CWU and it also recognises their role as a critical stakeholder as BT moves forward with its modernisation plans.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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