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BT employees at Adastral Park face the prospect of job losses and pay restructuring

PUBLISHED: 18:14 07 December 2018 | UPDATED: 09:06 10 December 2018

Photo by John Birdsall shows this year's Prospect BT conferenc in May, where delegates voted to press for the protection of the pay, terms and conditions of anyone adversely affected by the People Framework changes

Photo by John Birdsall shows this year's Prospect BT conferenc in May, where delegates voted to press for the protection of the pay, terms and conditions of anyone adversely affected by the People Framework changes

John Birdsall Photography

Some of the 3,000 people employed by BT at Adastral Park could be facing the prospect of looming redundancy this Christmas.

BT Adastral ParkBT Adastral Park

The telecoms provider announced back in May that it was shedding 13,000 jobs across the company, and a proportion of those will be at the company’s base in Martlesham Heath.

Martin Aylett, who is the union Prospect’s representative for Adastral Park, has been negotiating with BT over a new pay and grading structure for the last two years. He says the situation has become “more complex than Brexit”, because of the large number of small redundancy proposals across the country.

“It’s a significant reorganisation which is just beginning,” he explained. “The full impact we won’t know until well into the new year because it’s working down through the organisation - the top layer has been done and it’s working through to impact people at the lower layers, and of course, there are more of those people.”

While there is always an ongoing “refreshing of skills” in hi-tech companies such as BT, Mr Aylett claims that this restructure goes “way beyond that”.

Weeks after BT chief executive Gavin Patterson announced the impending job losses, the company revealed it had paid Mr Patterson £2.3m that year and Mr Aylett admitted that the pay rise had left “a bitter taste in the mouths” of some of its employees.

“Inevitably there is a degree of frustration, but by and large, because it’s such a large company, the CEO’s pay rise doesn’t have much impact on workers’ pay,” he said. “But of course we would rather that money was spent on pay rises for those who are keeping the company going.”

Although it’s not yet clear where the axe will fall, Mr Aylett is hopeful the impact will be “less severe” in Suffolk because Adastral Park is BT’s hi-tech base, and the company will still need people with those advanced technical skills in the future.

But because of the lack of other similar technology employers in Suffolk, Mr Aylett explained that those made redundant in Suffolk might then have to relocate out of the area to find similar work - potentially uprooting families.

In another turn of events, this week, BT lost its legal bid to apply lower pension increases for about 80,000 members in Section C of its defined benefit BT Pension Scheme, after the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier High Court decision.

More than 80,000 members of Section C stood to lose an estimated £24,000 in pension benefits on average if the appeal had been upheld, because CPI is generally lower than RPI.

Mr Aylett said this had led to a “sigh of relief” for many employees at Adastral Park. “But BT is considering what they are going to do next and they might take it further legally,” he added.

My Aylett is meeting BT on Monday to try to escalate the union’s position and get them to move faster. It’s a changing situation,” he explained. “As well as people being directly impacted by potential redundancies, there are people having to apply for a job they have been doing as that job changes in structure.

“In January, there will either be something in terms of an agreement between the union and BT, or no agreement, and an even more difficult situation. As we keep saying, it’s like Brexit.”

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